Home > Uncategorized > Would You Like to Understand What A Cell Membrane Is?

Would You Like to Understand What A Cell Membrane Is?

I work at a science institute, but, in spite of my last name, I’m not actually very good at science. While science isn’t integral to my job, it helps if I know what people are talking about, if only so as not to take a major hit to my ego. (I’ve found that no matter how well I did in school, being around Nobel Laureates makes me feel kind of dumb.)

Anyway, I recently came across a copy of the HHMI report from November of last year and I started reading the article. I will admit up front that I started reading the article because I liked the picture, which was not scientific looking. In big bold letters, across from the intriguingly non-scientific looking picture, the copy read:

Picture a neatly groomed hedge between two houses. On one side, a grassy yard is strewn with jumbles of sandbox toys, half buried dog bones, and plastic cars. On the other side, neat rows of pansies frame a manicured garden. The hedge is a barrier between two worlds. Look closer though, and the border is a busy place. Insects buz through the branches without hesitation and a rabbit has traveled through the underbrush so often that a tunnel has formed. Hands reach across a low gate from one side to the other delivering cookies, wrongly addressed mail, and toys that have leapt the bushes.

The boundary of a living … cell is surprisingly similar to that hedge.

And I got it. I’ve always had trouble understanding how things can get in and out of cells. Not that I thought about it much, but the idea of blood carrying oxygen to the brain for example, never made much sense to me. If the oxygen in the red blood cell, how does it get out of there? And how did it get there in the first place?

Here is the entire story, called Membrane Awakening, but it gets more complicated after that. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t need much more than, “Membranes are like hedges.”

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  1. Frume Sarah
    December 27, 2010 at 1:31 am

    What a great way to teach the basics. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to shelve this for some future time when I want to impress my kids.

  2. January 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I completely approve.

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