Cell Biology: What It Is And Its Importance - Summary

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Cells are the basic units that allow us and all living beings to carry out the functions of life. These units were discovered through the microscope and thanks to early cytologists like Antonie van Leeuwenhoeck, which gave way to cell biology. This approach was the beginning of a science that would completely change the course of humanity. In this Green Ecologist article we explain what is cell biology, what is its importance and what are its applications for humans.

What is cell biology and what does it study

Cell biology is a science that study cells, from how they are structured to their biochemical functioning. It is a branch of biology and, since cells are the basic units of life, its study is essential for knowing the functioning of all living beings.

Within cells occur a series of vital processes such as metabolism, protein folding, extracellular communication, secretion of substances, excretion of components that are no longer useful, assimilation of substances in growth and cell division. All these processes are studied by cell biology and are directly related to the cellular components, which are the ones who carry out the aforementioned processes.

The cellular components vary according to the type of cell since there are different types of cells:

  • The eukaryote.
  • The prokaryote.
  • The animal.
  • The vegetable.
  • The fungal.
  • The protist.

As each one has particular characteristics, cell research can specialize in each of them. Some of the structures that can be studied are the cell membrane, nucleus, Golgi apparatus, peroxisomes, endoplasmic reticulum, ribosomes, mitochondria, chloroplasts, vacuoles, lysosomes, cell wall and microtubules.

If you want to know more about cell types, do not hesitate to visit this other article that we recommend.

What are the applications of cell biology

Cell biology has multiple applications, from medicine, to evolution and biotechnology, since its study can solve different problems. Next, we are going to mention the two most prominent applications of cell biology.

Medicine

Thanks to the knowledge of cells, it has been possible to discover pathological tissues, like cancer. This is caused by disorderly cell multiplication, from which treatments have been created that attack these diseased cells. Cytology is the specific branch of cell biology that uses cell staining and marking to know how they are behaving.

Cells play an important role in embryonic development. The cell multiplication varies according to the zygote stage, useful information for both reproductive physicians and veterinarians. Related to this is the study of reproductive cells that seek to find problems that can cause infertility. For example, there are sperm count tests where it is analyzed whether the movement or the number are adequate for the individual to be considered fertile.

There are numerous diseases related to the blood, which is also made up of cells. There are platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells and when there are abnormalities, pathologies occur, such as insufficient production in medullary aplasia or particular problems such as erythroblastopenias. Knowing about blood cells can help detect pathologies and develop therapies.

Biotechnology

The immune system works thanks to specific cells, such as lymphocytes (for humoral immunity) and T cells (for cellular immunity), which respond to external stimuli that can endanger the body. Cellular responses determine immune response and through technology is that today they have developed vaccines They use the principle of antibody development to prevent disease.

It is also important to know the cellular functioning of other biological groups. Microbiology is responsible for this, where fungal and prokaryotic cells are studied. These cells can be used in biotechnology, for example, for the food production with lactic acid bacteria to produce cheese and yogurt, or to create defense methods, such as antibiotic medications.

If you want to know more about what is biotechnology and what it is for, do not hesitate to take a look at this article by Ecologist Verde.

Difference between cellular and molecular biology

Cells generate molecules necessary for different functions, which brings us to the difference between cell biology and molecular biology. Although related, they study different aspects of the cell.

  • Molecular biology: studies the composition, function and structure of cellular molecules.
  • Cell biology: studies the mechanisms of the cell that occur in its organelles. Here you can find more information about cell organelles: what they are, functions and examples.

The cellular molecules that can be studied are divided into inorganic compounds, small organic molecules, and macromolecules. Next, we will explain them more specifically:

  • Inorganic compounds: include water and mineral salts.
  • Small organic molecules: they are the sugars, fatty acids, amino acids and nucleotides that, when joined, form more complex molecules.
  • Macromolecules: They are composed of these small molecules, which form high molecular weight polymers, such as polysaccharides, lipids and phospholipids. The most important macromolecules are proteins and nucleic acids in the form of DNA and RNA. In addition, they are the basis of the study of molecular biology, because from these the physical and metabolic characteristics of all living beings emerge.

Importance of cell biology for humans

The knowledge of cells is essential to know how organisms work, and this can be achieved thanks to cell biology. Since the cell is the basic unit, it is necessary to know it in depth to understand how life works.

The main contributions to humanity generated from the knowledge of the cell have been originated by molecular biology. Their understanding and handling have allowed:

  • Create treatments.
  • Prevent diseases and pathologies.
  • Produce new types of proteins.
  • Modify plant and animal phenotypic traits.
  • Increase food production.

This branch of biology has been useful to know the origin of various living beings, such as the results of the analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana, where its genome has been completely sequenced and, thanks to this, the evolution of flowering plants is being known, which will help improve agricultural development.

Another important application of molecular biology that needs to be mentioned again is in medicine, using mice as models. We share genes with these animals, such as the Kit gene that regulates pigment cells. From this they have been able modify genes in mice to experience how they respond to change and thus know the processes in humans.

The tissues of the human body are made up of cells. With this knowledge, therapies have been developed to regenerate tissues in the best way. For example, there are bone regeneration practices where implants are inserted that promote cell renewal, useful in cases of fracture. The remodeling occurs by bone cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts.

Cellular and molecular biology are not only of direct importance to humans. The genetic modification of plants it has been crucial to our food system. Climatic conditions have been constantly changing and plants have undergone this accelerated process. This is why genes have been modified so that crops can survive temperatures different and even against pests. This has managed to alleviate the famine as food production has increased considerably, especially to the benefit of underdeveloped countries.

If you are curious to know more about biology, here we leave you another article about the Branches of biology and what they study.

If you want to read more articles similar to Cell biology: what it is and its importance, we recommend that you enter our Biology category.

Bibliography
  • Orengo, D. (2011). Molecular Biology Fundamentals. Barcelona: Editorial UOC
  • Alberts, B., Bray, D., Hopkin, K., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, M., Walter, P. (2004). Introduction to cell biology. Madrid: Editorial M√©dica Panamericana
  • Fern√°ndez, I., Alobera, M., Blanco, L. Physiological bases of bone regeneration I. Histology and physiology of bone tissue. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal 2006; 11: E47-51.
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