Uploaded by jamie83 on Oct 26, 2011
This paper discusses the chemistry of the human cell. (3 pages; 5 sources; MLA citation style)
The cells of the human body are complex structures that perform the chemical reactions necessary to sustain life. This paper briefly describes cell chemistry.
A cell has three main components: the cell membrane, the cytoplasm (the substance of the cell—water, salt and “macromolecules”); and the nucleus. The cell membrane is comprised of lipids and proteins; it gives the cell its shape, protects the contents, and “controls what goes in and out of the cell.” (“Inside the Living Cell,” PG). (An indication of the importance of this transmission is the fact that this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Dr. Peter Agre and Dr. Roderick MacKinnon for their work with the “channels” in cell membranes.) (“Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winners,” PG).
Human cells are really chemical engines; they perform the chemical reactions necessary to sustain life. In this process, there are only six “major players”: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus. It is carbon that is the major “building block” here, because it is a “unique element” that can combine with many other atoms to form strong, stable chemical bonds. It can take many forms, making long chains that double back on each other, for instance; it provides a “skeleton” that other atoms bond to. The gigantic molecules formed when atoms of hydrogen, oxygen and others bond to the carbon skeleton are called “macromolecules”, and lipids and proteins are both macromolecules formed by this process. (“The Chemistry of the Cell,” PG). As we’ve seen, they are found in the cell walls, where they help with transmission of materials to and from the cell.
Macromolecules are made up of “smaller, repeating submits” that are known as “monomers.” These monomers are always similar in chemical structure, though they are not always identical. (Simple sugar is a monomer.) In a process called “polymerization,” the monomers are joined by a series of chemical reactions. The result of these reactions is the formation of large, complex molecules known as polymers. Lipids are polymers; examples are fats, oils and wax. (“The Chemistry of the Cell,” PG).
Polymerization allows for a tremendous range of chemical diversity in living things, in much the same way that the alphabet, though limited to 26 letters, can create...