What is the cell membrane? In basic terms, it’s like the skin of the cell. Each component of every tissue, organ, and essentially every structure that is in the universe is made up of cells – at least the universe that we know anyway. Inside of the membrane is the DNA that makes up the structures of everything. Unlike skin, however, cell membranes have other tasks that they must complete. Here are some interesting facts about this protective structure.
1. It Is Super Small
The cell membrane is ridiculously small. It’s so small, in fact, that you’d have to stack more than 10,000 cell membranes on top of each other to equal the thickness of a standard piece of the paper. Yet despite this small size, the total amount of cell membrane volume in the average human body is incredibly large. There’s more than 300k square feet of it in the human body, which is enough to fully cover 4 American football fields.
2. It’s the Entryway to a Library
The amount of information that the cell membrane protects is incredible. It’s essentially like having your own HDD operating within every cell. What the cell membrane does, however, is actually use this data library. It directs the information to go to different places in the body and it helps to keep people functional and healthy. How important is the cell membrane? If it breaks down for some reason, the cell will instantly die.
3. They Pick and Choose
Imagine if your skin could pick and choose certain things that it could absorb. Instead of drinking water, for example, you could put some water on your skin and you’d become hydrated. Now imagine that the skin could let substances out as well, like blood that contains cancer cells. You’re getting the picture of what a cell membrane can do. It’s permeable, which means it allows certain molecules to enter into the cell or leave it. This happens either through osmosis or through protein transport.
4. Love Those Fatty Foods
One of the things that molecules need is carbohydrates. These attach to protein molecules in particular and form what are called glycolipids. This acts as a sort of name tag for the cell, kind of like those “Hello, My Name Is…” tags you might wear at a convention or during the first day of school. Glycolipids let each cell know what the job is of each neighbor so that everyone can work together in perfect harmony.
The cell membrane actually has two main layers. The second layer is composed of phospholipids and this acts a lot like the insulation of a double-glazed window. The thin space between the layers helps to facilitate movement properties while resisting molecules that shouldn’t be entering the cells.
The cell membrane is the real key to life. Without it, we wouldn’t exist. This is why the cell membrane is such an exciting part of nature’s structure.