Exploring Life at the Cellular Level and Why it Matters
By Temitayo J on September 5, 2023
Do you sometimes find life meaningless? What is life anyway? Can you describe your own life? What comprises life? Here, we will look at life from its simplest form to better understand and appreciate our own lives. All life, from the tiny E. coli bacteria to the giant Blue Whale, starts from cells, and perhaps therein lie many answers. I first encountered this concept at age thirteen in a summer class. The biology teacher declared sharply, “We all come from cells, which are then organized to make a whole human”.
Since then, I’ve been fascinated by these tiny, unimaginable structures. It seems simple: cells are the basic structural and functional unit of life. Yet, this statement is much more complex.
A single cell is capable of reproduction, respiration, growth, and all the processes that keep us alive. Several of them are specialized to serve us, like nerve cells, which are well-suited for relaying information to the brain, or stem cells, which are capable of more, yet to be discovered. The only difference between us and other organisms is just the way our genetic material encodes information! Without this difference, we could be anything else! DNA molecules in a single human cell when stretched out are about six feet long, yet it’s crammed into a compartment much smaller.
Our existence is driven by the trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We often don’t think of ourselves as complex, multicellular beings. However, our cellular makeup can render us vulnerable: a simple microorganism can lead to fatal diseases or a cell process gone wrong can alter entire generations. The study of cells challenges us to ask questions, reimagine our world, and even re-invent it. Christina Agapakis, a synthetic biologist, in a TED Talk, explains what happens when biology becomes technology or even fuses with art: from engineering bacteria to play Sudoku to creating multicolored ones.
David Bolinsky once said: “No matter how lazy you think you are, you aren’t really intrinsically doing nothing.” I hope this article gets you excited about your life and the amazing cells that make it possible!
Thank you Sharon V for editing this article!