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 Inside the Living Cell

 
The many and complex chemical reactions that are necessary to maintain life can take place only in a delicately balanced environment.  Living cells, such as the human cheek cells shown on the borders of this page, are the life support chambers that maintain this special environment.  Cheek cells are the cells that are collected for use in DNA testing for genealogy. (Click the thumbnail to see Mr. James Dorsey collecting cheek cells for the Dorsey/Kelley project.)

All living organisms are made up of cells.  Just as a brick is the basic unit of structure of a house, a cell is the basic unit of structure of all living things.  All organisms consist of one or more cells.

New cells can be formed only by the division of existing cells. A plant or animal starts as a single cell and grows by increasing the number of cells.  The human body contains approximately 100 trillion cells, most of which are less than a tenth of a millimeter across.

An organism acquires energy by breaking down food within its cells. It then uses this energy to maintain each cell's internal chemical environment, to build organic molecules, to grow, and to reproduce by cell division.

  Most cells (excluding bacteria) have three main parts: 

1.   The cell membrane is a thin but tough covering made of lipids and proteins that forms the outside of the bag.  The cell membrane protects the inner contents of the cell, gives the cell shape and supports and controls what goes in and out of the cell.

2.   The cytoplasm (means cell substance) contains water, various salts, and many large macromolecules.  The cytoplasm also contains a variety of smaller subunits or compartments of the cell called organelles which perform various tasks.

3.   The cell nucleus houses the cell’s genetic material (DNA and RNA) and proteins.  The genetic material contains directions for making the cell’s proteins. 

Of particular interest to the molecular genealogist, are the cell nucleus and one of the smaller organelles found in the cytoplasm, the mitochondria.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1 adapated from the National Human Genome Glossary:
http://www.genome.gov/Pages/Hyperion//DIR/VIP/Glossary/Illustration/cell.shtml

For a simulated, interactive look at cheek cells through a microscope try:
http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/phasecontrast/phasemicroscope/index.html

 

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Contexo Home Page ] Introduction ] Basic Chemistry ] Cell Chemistry ] [ Cell Structure ] Mitochondria ] Cell Nucleus ] Chromosomes ] Mitosis ] Meiosis ] Proteins ] DNA ] DNA Replication ] Gene Expression ] Mutation ] Molecular Genealogy ] Collecting Your Own DNA ] Polymerase Chain Reation ] Primers ] DNA Sequencing ] How Microsatellite Repeats Are Counted ] YSTR Database Allele Frequency Charts ] Dorsey DNA Surname Project Home Page ] Links ]

This web is lovingly dedicated to the memory of
Mr. James Dorsey
who so graciously and enthusiastically
donated his DNA to solve our family mystery. 


Jim Dorsey
2/12/1930 — 4-30-2002

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