Hello, and welcome to my “casual science” blog! Here you’ll find articles that break down complex scientific concepts into easy-to-understand ideas. I hope to help introduce the wonderful world of science to readers who do not have a large background in it.
In this particular article, I’ll be briefly discussing the various main parts of human cells and their functions. In the following articles, I’ll do the same for plant cells.
Let us begin with a diagram.
This is a very simplified drawing of the human cell (from people.eku.edu) where the most important parts are labeled and drawn. These are the parts I will talk about today.
Found in eukaryotic cells, the nucleus is where the “magic” happens in a cell. Essentially, it dictates all of the cell’s major functions, including reproduction, the passing on of genes, and controlling energy consumption as well as growth. If you think of the cell as a human, the nucleus is the brain.
You’ve probably already heard the phrase, “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”. This is true, but what exactly does this popular phrase mean? Mitochondria are essential to the cell’s ability to have enough energy to continue performing its necessary tasks. The mitochondria do this by taking the nutrients and oxygen that the cell takes in and changing it into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a form of energy that powers the cell’s activities.
The cell membrane does what the diagram shows: it surrounds the cytoplasm of the cell. The cell membrane’s function is to protect the contents of the cell. It does this by directly controlling what is let in the cell (oxygen, nutrients, etc.) and what isn’t (toxins potentially harmful to the cell). The cell membrane also is in charge of regulating cell growth.
The cytoplasm surrounds all of the organelles of the cell and fills the cell membrane. It has the consistency of thick fluid. The cytoplasm’s main function is to “support and suspend” (ThoughtCo.) the cell’s organelles. It is also home to many regular cellular functions.
A vacuole is one of the cell’s main organelles. They are responsible for storing a cell’s necessary water and nutrients as well as the cell’s waste to protect the cell before sending the waste out. They can be described as “storage bubbles” (Biology4Kids).
Lysosomes are organelles found in eukaryotic cells. The job of lysosomes is to break down cell waste and macromolecules into simple compounds, which are given to the cytoplasm and used as “new cell-building materials”.
Keep in mind, that the cell has many more parts that I have not gone into here. I have highlighted the main tasks of the most important parts of the cell, but not exactly how they work. For more details, please check the various links in my references section.