Friday, November 14, 2008

cells recycle

Let’s leave the cell membrane for a while and go inside the cell. Since environmental issues are so popular these days, let’s focus on the original recycling center found inside cells.

Eukaryotic cells have an organelle called the lysosome. This organelle contains hydrolytic enzymes that convert food particles, phagocytosed bacteria or viruses, and old, worn-out cell parts into smaller pieces that are then used, recovered, reused, and recycled by the cell into other functional parts of the cell. Lysosomes can even recover through the process of endocytosis, membranes that are once part of vesicles and receptors.

Lysosomes are so efficient in their function, they will “eat” anything they encounter, break it into pieces, and recycle them. There is practically zero waste inside cells because of lysosomal activity.

Sometimes however, lysosomes can malfunction because of lack of some enzymes. When this happens, substances can accumulate inside the cell and interfere with normal cell function. The cell then gets sick and of course the individual gets sick. Tay Sachs disease and Pompe’s disease are examples of diseases caused by malfunction of lysosomes.

In Tay Sachs disease, fatty proteins accumulate in the brain and affect a baby’s sight, hearing, movement, and mental development. In Pompe’s disease on the other hand, glycogen accumulate inside muscle cells and cause weakness of muscles including muscles of the heart and the respiratory system. The individual may then die of heart failure and/or respiratory failure.

All these for not being able to recycle because the cell's recycling center malfunctioned.

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