How I remember cell organelle functions  

7_long4 34M
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2/9/2006 6:05 pm

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3/5/2006 9:27 pm

How I remember cell organelle functions

Murder by Death (not the band)

I have been studying anatomy and physiology of late, and in a recent lecture, we were covering the anatomy of a cell. One of the structures in the cell we covered was the lysosomes, of course. The function of a lyosome, for those of you who don’t know, is to digest things the cell doesn’t want or need in the cell. You can think of them like little janitors cleaning out the cell. How they do this job, however, is far different from a typical janitor. They are essentially a “bag” of enzymes that can break down the make-up of what they stuff in the bag casing. A comparison would be if a janitor took all the things they were cleaning into a room, poured various corrosive chemicals over everything, and watched it all melt away to nothingness. It is a rather effective way of clearing out debris.

One of the things discussed in lecture was how cells can trigger the “bag” lysosomes to open up emptying the enzymes into the cell which inevitably results in the cell digesting itself (i.e. committing suicide). One of the more obvious occurrences of cells “committing suicide” is in fetal growth. As our hands grow, membranes of cells remain between our fingers giving our fingers’ webbing. This membrane is removed by those cells opening their lysosomes to digest themselves. Thus we are left with separated fingers.

With this new knowledge, the great band named “Murder by Death” came to mind. I had never understood the band’s name, but I just figured it was a catchy band name that wasn’t supposed to mean anything. However, knowing what I know now, it actually has some meaning even if naming themselves “Murder by Death” wasn’t meant to mean anything. If all of the cells in your body were to simultaneously open their lysosomes and digest themselves, you wouldn’t be committing suicide as your “self” -- not killing your own body. The cells would be doing this most likely against your own will. Therefore, your cells have just murdered you…murder by death.

I began thinking on another level with this…what would we turn into if our lysosomes all digested ourselves? Going by the laws of physics, matter cannot disappear. It can only change. One of the ways it can change is to be converted into energy. I thought about this for a moment and realized this can’t be happening as no energy is being produced by a cell digesting itself. If anything, energy is being used. That leaves only one other answer, matter is being converted to another form of matter equal in mass to the mass of your body. I then asked again, if the body digests itself what would it look like? I came to the realization that it would likely be similar to our own digestion. The enzymes in the lysosomes break down the “food,” or the cell, and then must have a waste byproduct. The urinary tract disposes of water soluble wastes while the alimentary canal disposes of non-water soluble wastes, more or less. Being that the lysosomes digest everything, all that would be left is waste…essentially if the body was to commit murder by death, you would turn into a big pile of shit.

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