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Human Body

14 tHE cEll lifes electric microcosm You are made of cells, many trillions of them, in forms as diverse as long delicate nerves to cuboid mucus factories, each of which performs a certain function as its contribution to the whole. Each cell differentiates into one of about 300 specialised types by switching on only a few of your genes, so makes only certain proteins, which engineer other proteins, fats, and sugars to build the cells structures, which define its function. The 3D diversity of proteins is what enables their complex molecular tinkering and the shape specific interactions crucial to messaging systems. Cells internal soup differs radically from the extracellular fluid, operations taking place inside the thin fluid plasma membrane. This is studded with proteinbased structures, mainly channels, governing what enters and leaves, receptors, transducing signals from other cells, or pumps, like the ubiquitous NaKATP pumps, which swap sodium out for potassium in. The fluxes this sets up makes cells electrified, negative inside and positive outside. These pumps use about half of all your energy, which is basically your available ATP, made by mitochondria with a protonelectron transfer chain that uses food and oxygen to fuel ATP synthesis. Cell division, mitosis below, happens at intervals from every few hours in highturnover tissues like frontline white cells p.34, to probably never again, in the case of most of your brain cells.
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