The magical cell
Every part of our body is made up of cells. In fact, our bodies are made up of more than 200 different types of cells. Despite how different they may look, where they are located or what kind of cell they are, all cells share a similar chemical structure.
Cells are organized in organs, glands and the different types of tissues that make up our bones, skin, veins, intestines, etc. Within each cell there are small organs known as organelles. All of our cells house and store the same DNA – which are gene molecules that contain code instructions for the cell such as when to grow, when to die, how to repair and how to create different parts of our body such as hair, nails, hormones, enzymes, etc.
Isn’t it interesting to think that regardless of the 200 different types of cells or where they are located they each contain and house the same information? How is that even possible? If cells are all structurally the same from a chemical standpoint why do the heart and liver look so differently? How do they produce different chemicals and function differently? To take it a step further, how do different organs know how to function? For example, how does a liver cell know what to do? How does a pancreatic cell know to produce insulin instead of creating enzymes or some other hormone? How do cells in the stomach know they have to produce acids to help in the digestive process?
The answer to these questions has to do with the genes inside of each cell. In certain cells, specific genes are turned on while others are turned off. This is what accounts for the differences between once cell type and another.
Some cells, such as glandular cells, primarily work to produce complex substances, such as a hormone or enzyme. For example, some cells in the breast produce milk, some in the pancreas produce insulin, some in the lining of the lungs produce mucus and some in the mouth create saliva. Other cells have primary functions that have nothing to do with the production of substances. Muscle cells for instance, focus on contraction, allowing for movement. Nerve cells generate and conduct electrical impulses, which allow for communication between the nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the rest of the body. Neurons in the brain produce neurotransmitters and capture information through our senses that activate learning, intellectual development and memory, creating files and circuitry as we learn and think.
All of this differentiation is defined before we’re born when we’re an embryo in the womb. At the time of pregnancy, mitosis and cytokinesis begin, with an unusually large cell producing an increasing amount of smaller cells, each with an exact copy of the DNA that has developed in the zygote (a zygote is the cell that forms by the union of a female cell ovule and the male sperm). The zygote develops into the embryo by following the instruction encoded in its genetic material. At first the zygote’s genes do not express themselves.
Early activities are controlled by the mother’s genome (DNA) and proteins that were deposited into the unfertilized egg previous to conception. In humans, a switch occurs after 4 – 8 cells have been produced. After this point the cells in the embryo begin to differentiate to form the specialized structures and functions that they’ll have in an adult body. Neurons, blood cells, skin cells, muscle cells and others form at this time. These cells are then organized into tissues; tissues are organized into organs; and organs into systems. These systems interact with each other to silence certain genes in tissues, allowing them to activate mechanisms pertaining to those tissues or organs. The testes in males for example activate certain genes while shutting other genes down. Even though those female genes exist within the male cells, they are deactivated and become completely silent.
A great deal of intelligence exists in every single cell. The differentiation that each cell displays is independent of any other cells or systems in the body, yet at the same time all cellular activity is a well orchestrated, magical and complex. Each cell has a mechanism that controls and regulates activity; these mechanisms are encoded within the data that each cell hosts. The extraordinary detail and characteristics that define the human cells that make up complex systems, and the way in which these cells use energy to survive, involves large multi molecular parts. Each part has a spectacular function and creates thousands of chemical reactions per second that transcribe information to varying types of molecules such as proteins, reactive molecules, hormones and neurotransmitters – all of which are capable in receiving messages and delivering them. This process is so exact that scientists cannot decipher how the cells are able to perform these processes through utilizing the nutrients out of the food we ingest.
What does a cell consist of?
Now that we’ve covered important general functions that cells perform, let’s walk through that make up of a single cell.
All cells are microscopic in size, averaging anywhere between a few to 100 micrometers in width. To help you understand size, 100 micrometers is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Cells are made up of basic ingredients including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen which make up about 96% of the cell. The remaining 4% is made up of other atoms such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, magnesium and other micro components.
These substances combine to form major components such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, water, minerals and salt. These major components make up the cellular structure.
Each cell has an outer boundary cell membrane that protects all internal components. This cover contains thousands of portals that allow nutrients, hormones, neurotransmitters and other chemicals to penetrate the cell. These portals close the door to any undesirable substances.
Inside the cell there are 2 primary regions: the nucleus and the cytoplasm. The nucleus is the control center containing genes and chromosomes; the cytoplasm that surrounds the nucleus contains organelles and fluids. Organelles are the cells organs. They perform an array of cellular metabolic function. There are a number of different metabolic functions such as acting as production factories, replicating or manufacturing new parts to replace damaged parts, serving as a transportation system to deliver new assembled parts or chemicals within that cell and acting as an electrical plant to convert carbohydrates and oxygen into usable energy. It is through the creation of this energy that the cells can perform their functions and jobs.
Important cellular functions
The ability to regenerate
The lifespan of a cell varies depending on the type of cell. No matter how long they live, before dying they replace themselves through dividing themselves to create a new cell. This process is called mitosis. How long a cell lives can be anywhere from minutes to up to 6 months.
As we can see then, due to the age of our cells, our bodies are not as old we may think or feel that they are. The majority of cells in our tissues regularly divide. As old cells die, new cells replace the old one. The old cell and their dead parts pass through our body along with other waste products through the body’s detoxification process. All of this happens each and every day, practically every minute of our lives.
Internal and external communication is vital to maintain health and sustain life itself. Cells communicate with each other within their microenvironment; cells also communicate with the entire body through the brain. This communication with the brain is vital because of the fact that the brain collects information on every single one of the approximately 60 trillion cells that make up our entire body. The brain collects this information using the nerve cells which act as a wired system that branch out and is able to carry information from the cell to the brain and then transmit those messages to other cells in the body using chemicals created by brain cells.
Cells are also able to communicate via wireless means to maintain equilibrium and regulate cellular activity. This is done through hormones which are created by certain glands, organs and specialized cells.
Internal balance inside each cell is only possible when the external environment surrounding our bodies is in equilibrium. This is of course impossible due to all of the different changes that we endure on daily basis. Things like temperature, humidity and the pressure of the atmosphere on the earth are constantly changing. Additionally, we share this planet with other species so exposure to microorganisms is always occurring as we breathe or touch objects around us. Exposure to man made chemicals and damage created by our own decisions such as not sleeping enough, not eating as often as we should, bad nutrition, stress or lack of activity also hinder external equilibrium. Luckily the cells are endowed with genes that can activate or deactivate repair and healing mechanisms to maintain internal balance to avoid the cellular death that would frequently occur if the body relied solely on external equilibrium. This is all due to cellular communication among cells through the brain and plays a very significant role in avoiding sickness and disease.
Cellular reparation is the cell’s ability to replace individual parts that are damaged by toxins, bad nutrition and bacterial infections. All organelles in the cell have specific functions that make cellular reparation possible. Even damage done at the chromosome level is reparable. If however, reparation is not possible due to extensive damage, the cell goes through a process where they kill themselves off for the benefit of the rest of the body. The dead cell is removed and neighboring cells, perfectly aware of the situation, communicate with each other and choose a healthy cell among them to divide through mitosis and fill the empty spot.
Cells contain all of the information they need regarding materials needed to fulfill their responsibilities. Due to the amount of work that cells continuously undergo, wear and tear occurs. As a consequence cells are constantly repairing and replacing parts. This requires material, which comes in the form of nutrients. Our overall and microscopic health depends on good nutrition. The cells know how to process these molecules to create complex components due to the intelligence that is in every cell. If we cultivate nutritional deficiency in our body, over time cellular damage is inevitable, leading to chronic disease and serious illness throughout our adult lives. Often times the cultivation of nutritional deficiency begins in our childhood and adolescence due to lack of understanding. Without the right set of nutrients, it is difficult for our cells to resolve damage and make the repairs necessary. Worse yet, the cells are unable to initiate defensive mechanisms such as apoptosis, leading to a proliferation of damaged cells and eventual chronic illness.
Cell membranes contain chemicals and molecules that can read any change that occurs in their microenvironment. This sensory activity allows the cell to create impulses and communicate internally with the nucleus of the cell. The nucleus initiates communication that requires a response from other parts of the body, neighboring cells or the brain to initiate repair and healing.
For example, eating meat high in fat, consuming simple carbohydrates or overeating triggers an inflammatory response. These foods create danger signals within the cell. The sensors in the cell membrane produce a stimulus that travels to the nucleus of the cell. From there certain genes are activated that create cytokines and inflamasome (NLRP3), as if there was an infection or toxin invading the cell’s microenvironment. Each and every cell involved in the digestive and metabolic process where these fats or carbohydrates will pass through will respond this way. Some cells will be more affected than others, such as the liver. Normally cells will resolve these problems by healing themselves through other response pathways. If someone however continues to eat high amounts of fatty meats and simple carbohydrates, tissues in the digestive system will stay swollen and inflamed. This activates immune cells that injure the liver, leading to what is known as fatty liver disease and eventually progressing to cirrhosis. It’s also important to note that the constant internal production of these chemicals by the cell kills immune cells and weakens the immune system.
Every cell responds to emotional stress. Stress causes chemical changes to take place in the brain and body. When stress is resolved and the cause for our feelings of stress or danger is over, all goes back to normal. If stress becomes chronic these chemical changes are constant, creating an array of physical problems that affect the cells in our organs and tissues.
Cells also serve as a hard drive of memory, saving every bit of information regarding changes in their environment. This includes information from infections, trauma and toxins even after the body has healed. Information created by chronic stress gets recorded in every cell affected.
Another amazing quality of our cells is to integrate information by utilizing our brain cells as a master database of intelligence. Brain cells capture all information that is sent back by every cell. The brain’s cells take this information and organize, calculate, files, compiles and sends a report back to every cell in the body regarding the condition and status of every one of the 60 trillion other cells in the body. The ability for every cell to have this information is critical for health and well being.
This goes to show that our body is not just a machine; our brain is not just a piece of hardware; rather they are made up of trillions of intelligent parts that work together to keep us alive. They repair, heal, feed and sustain each other by producing a wide variety of natural chemicals through using micronutrients; they sustain life by using macro nutrients (proteins, carbs, fats, water). All bodily functions are sustained and rely on nutrients derived from plants and some animal proteins.
The fact that our cells are widely intelligent all point to a Higher Creator in the design of our bodies. Our body and brain are perfectly designed to learn through using our senses, create thoughts and be creative. We’re even able to generate happiness. As we give meaning to our lives, the brain is able to adapt and our body’s cells are able to produce gene expression. This is why it’s so true that our thoughts directly influence the health of our cells.
Negative and unreasonable thoughts create toxicity in the brain, affecting optimal health. Due to the role the brain plays in supporting bodily function important systems – such as the immune, endocrine and digestive systems – all get affected.
On the other hand, positive thoughts help the brain work at optimal levels. In these circumstances, your brain has the capacity to be more creative due to the connection and communication between the limbic and neocortex sections of the brain. This ability for these two sections to communicate predominantly among each other allows us to live happy and peacefully. This allows our sense of well being and behavior to work independently of external circumstances or situations.
The good news is that just like any other cells, our brain cells can also heal. We can shift from living our lives through a negative, ego based lens that focuses primarily on ourselves to living our lives being led by values, compassion, empathy and wisdom regardless of the challenges or trials we may be facing. No matter where we may find ourselves, these positive human characteristics are the compass that lead to health and joy in our lives.