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The Cells in Your Body

This resource provides you with an introduction to cells.
Everyones body is made of the same basic stuff. All living things, large or small, plant or animal,
are made up of cells. Most living things are made up of one cell and they are called unicellular
organisms. Many other living things are made up of a large number of cells that form a larger plant
or animal. These living things are known as multicellular organisms. Water makes up about two thirds of
the weight of cells.
Cells are very small; most cells can only be seen through a microscope. Cells are the smallest living units
that are capable of reproducing themselves. Each cell in your body was made from an already existing
cell. All plants and animals are made up of cells. In this article, we will talk about the cells that make up
All the parts of your body are made up of cells. There is no such thing as a typical cell. Your body has
many different kinds of cells. Though they might look different under a microscope, most cells have
chemical and structural features in common. In humans, there are about 200 different types of cells, and
within these cells there are about 20 different types of structures or organelles.
All cells have a membrane. Cell membranes are the outer layers that hold the cell together. They let
nutrients pass into the cell and waste products pass out. Not everything can pass through a cell
membrane. What gets through and what doesnt depends on both the size of the particle trying to get in
and the size of the opening in the membrane.
Cells also have a nucleus. This is the cells control center. Cells continually divide to make more cells for
growth and repair in your body. The nucleus contains the information that allows cells to reproduce, or
make more cells. Another important part of a cell is the mitochondrion. This is the part of the cell where
food and oxygen combine to make energy.
You know that you need air to breathe. It is the oxygen in air that your body really needs. Every cell in
your body needs oxygen to help it metabolize (burn) the nutrients released from food for energy. You also
know that you need food. Food gives you energy, but oxygen is needed to break down the food into
pieces that are small enough for your cells to use This is known as cellular respiration and it is the
process of oxidizing food molecules, like glucose, to carbon dioxide and water. The energy released is
chemically trapped for use by all the energy-consuming activities of the cell. Your cells are the energy
converters for your body.
Different cells have different jobs to do. Each cell has a size and shape that is suited to its job.
Cells that do the same job combine together to form body tissue, such as muscle, skin, or bone
tissue. Groups of different types of cells make up the organs in your body, such as your heart,
liver, or lungs. Each organ has its own job to do, but all organs work together to maintain your body. A
group of different organs working together to do a job makes up a system. All the systems in your body
are like members of a team whose job it is to keep you alive and healthy.
The different types of cells in your body have different, specialized jobs to do. The specialization of cells
depends almost always on the exaggeration of properties common to cells. For example, cells that line
the intestine have extended cell membranes. This increases the amount of surface area that is available
to absorb food. Nerve cells can be very long, which makes them efficient in sending signals from the brain
to the rest of your body. Cells in heart muscle process a lot of energy, so they have a large number of
mitochondrion, the part of the cells where energy is made.
Like all living things, cells die. The number of cells that an adult male loses per minute is roughly 96
million. Fortunately, in that same minute, about 96 million cells divided, replacing those that died. Just as
you shed dead skin cells, dead cells from internal organs pass through and out of the body with waste
products. The length of a cells life can vary. For example, white blood cells live for about thirteen days,
cells in the top layer of your skin live about 30 days, red blood cells live for about 120 days, and liver cells
live about 18 months.
Integumentary System

The integumentary system consists of the skin, hair, nails, glands, and nerves. Its main function is to act
as a barrier to protect the body from the outside world. It also functions to retain body fluids, protect
against disease, eliminate waste products, and regulate body temperature. In order to do these things,
the integumentary system works with all the other systems of your body, each of which has a role to play
in maintaining the internal conditions that a human body needs to function properly.

The integumentary system has many functions, most of which are involved in protecting you and
regulating your bodys internal functions in a variety of ways:
Protects the body's internal living tissues and organs
Protects against invasion by infectious organisms
Protects the body from dehydration
Protects the body against abrupt changes in temperature
Helps dispose of waste materials
Acts as a receptor for touch, pressure, pain, heat, and cold
Stores water and fat
Your body is a complicated system that consists of many subsystems that
help to keep it functioning properly. These subsystems serve a variety of
purposes and require needed materials to function properly, as well as
means of communicating information to other parts of the body. Thus, the
skin and other parts of the integumentary system work with other systems
in your body to maintain and support the conditions that your cells,
tissues, and organs need to function properly.
The skin is one of the first defense mechanisms in your immune system.
Tiny glands in the skin secrete oils that enhance the barrier function of the
skin. Immune cells live in the skin and provide the first line of defense
against infections.
By helping to synthesize and absorb vitamin D, the integumentary system
works with the digestive system to encourage the uptake of calcium
from our diet. This substance enters the bloodstream though the capillary
networks in the skin. Healthy functioning of your skin also is related to the
digestive system because the digestion and assimilation of dietary fats
and oils are essential for the body to be able to make the protective oils for the skin and hair.
The integumentary system also works closely with the circulatory system and the surface capillaries
through your body. Because certain substances can enter the bloodstream through the capillary networks
in the skin, patches can be used to deliver medications in this manner for conditions ranging from heart
problems (nitroglycerin) to smoking cessation (nicotine patches).
The skin also is important in helping to regulate your body temperature. If you are too hot or too cold, your
brain sends nerve impulses to the skin, which has three ways to either increase or decrease heat loss
from the body's surface: hairs on the skin trap more warmth if they are standing up, and less if they are
lying flat; glands under the skin secrete sweat onto the surface of the skin in order to increase heat loss
by evaporation if the body is too hot; capillaries near the surface can open when your body needs to cool
off and close when you need to conserve heat.
Your skin plays a vital role in your body as regards the sense of touch. The nervous system depends on
neurons embedded in your skin to sense the outside world. It processes input from your senses, including
touch, and initiates actions based on those inputs. For example, when you stub your toe, nerve cells in
the foot send signals up the leg, through the spinal cord, and up into the brain. The nerve cell connections
in the brain sense these signals as pain.
As well as interacting with the body systems as explained above, the integumentary system also
contributes to numerous physiological processes, especially those involved in the regulation of the bodys
internal environment so as to maintain a stable condition. An example is provided by the way that the skin
helps in temperature regulation by changes in the pattern of blood supply to the skin and by sweating, as
mentioned above.