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Life is both wonderful and majestic. Yet for all of its majesty, all organisms are composed of the fundamental unit of life, the cell.
From Journey Into the Cell at

Cellular Respiration

Cellular respiration is the process of oxidizing food molecules, like glucose, to carbon dioxide and water. The energy release is trapped in the form of ATP for use by all the energy-consuming activities of the cell.

J.Kimball, Author and Professor



Cell Function

The study of cells (cytology) dates back to 1665.  But not until 1840, with improved microtechniques, was much understood about the fluid content of cells - the true substance of life.  It was then that scientists first concluded that all plants and animals are composed of cells. 

Three basic principles about cells:
1. Cells are units that make up all living matter.
2. Cells are units that carry on the function of all living things.
3. Cells come from pre-existing cells.

Three basic principles about cells have not changed with time.

The health of individual cells is determined by the ability of the cells to carry out their full range of functions. 

Main job: To perform the many jobs necessary to stay alive, such as moving oxygen around your body, taking care of the fuel supply, communications, and waste removal:

  • The enzymatic breakdown and absorption of substances to provide more than 40 known nutrients for the building, repair and maintenance of tissue and for energy
  • Synthesis, or putting together of organic compounds from smaller units obtained from digestion and absorption or some other synthesis reaction in the cell. This results in the functions of cell growth, secretion and replacement of worn-out cellular parts.
  • Cell respiration which results in the release of energy from the final stage of the digestion of food.
  • Cell movement and the movement of substances inside the cell which determine its efficiency in functioning.
  • Excretion of waste producst (toxins and the "clinkers" of metabolism) from cells. Some waste materials to be removed are soluble, others are nonsoluble and nondigestible.
  • To maintain a steady state within a cell (called homeostasis) which permits its existence and formation of new cells.

There are 26 billion cells in a newborn baby and 50 trillion cells in an adult.

A typical cell has two major parts:
1. Nucleus (Referred to as the cells command center.  It has the coded information for the manufacture of protein within the DNA).
2. Cytoplasm (all the material inside the cell except for the nucleus).

Cells contain highly organized structures called organelles essential to their functioning.  One of these organelles, mitochondria, is responsible for 95% of the cell's energy supply.

Cells of a similar type that are grouped together are called tissues.  Tissues of one kind depend upon other kinds of tissues to supply some of their needs to carry out their specific functions.  Muscles need oxygen supplied by the blood tissue, food from the digestive track and regulation of movement by the tissues of the nervous system.    

Organs are groups of tissues joined together to perform specific tasks. The stomach has a tissue lining which is different from the stomach muscles that cause the food to be mixed. The gastric glands that secrete digestive juices are another kind of tissue and are different from the nerve tissues that signal the emptying of the stomach. 

Several organs can work together in a system. The organs of a system may be close together, or spread across the body. Some examples are the digestive, reproductive, respiratory, excretory, and nervous systems.

Some kinds of tissue may be found in more than one system. Muscle tissue, for example, is part of the muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems. Some organs, like the pancreas (which is part of the digestive and endocrine systems) pull double duty.

The body gives us many illustrations of the interdependence of cells and tissues.

Some Different Cells:

  • The egg is the largest human cell. Once it is fertilized, all other cells begin forming.
  • Bone cells help build your skeleton by secreting the fibers and minerals from which bone is made.
  • Fat cells store fat. They can shrink or grow. Once you have them you can't get rid of them.
  • Muscle cells are organized into muscles, which move body parts.
  • Nerve cells pass nerve messages around your body.
  • Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body.
  • White blood cells fight disease

Your cells need to breakdown, assimilate and utilize specific substances to perform their designated functions.  We'll be covering that in Cell Food.


  1. Dr. Mary Ruth Swope, Green Leaves of Barley. Dr. Swope is a nutrition educator with more than 50 years experience in foods and nutrition.
  2. Science for Families, Ladder of Life  

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"God put upon this earth every ingredient needed to promote and sustain cell life...He also put on this earth the stems, roots, leaves, and bark containing every ingredient necessary to change a sick cell to a healthy cell."
Dr. Mary Ruth Swope
Green Leaves of Barley 

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