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We all know that the human body is made up of cells. So what is a cell in biology? Cell is the smallest unit of life that can replicate independently. A cell is the basic structural, functional and biological unit of all living organisms. Cells provide structure to the body, take in nutrients, convert nutrients into energy and also perform specialized functions.

The growth process of a cell depends on the density of the number of cells present in an organism. Cell growth means increase in the number of cells in an organism. As the organism becomes larger so do the number of cells present in its body.

Cell biology definition
Cell biology is the branch of biology that focuses on the idea of a cell as the fundamental unit of life. It includes study of the structures and functions of a cell. Cells have many parts and each part has a different function. Some of the parts of a cell are called organelles.

Cell Biology | Image source: pinterest.com


As cell is the fundamental unit of life the study of cell is the most important area for biological research. It is useful in cancer research, cloning and embryology.

Cell biology explains the the structure of the cell, the organelles it contains, the physiological properties and the metabolic processes. It also explains the signalling pathways, life cycle and cell interactions with the environment. This can be done at microscopic level and at molecular level.

Did you know: The human body has around 724 trillion cells

Techniques used to study the cell
Cells can be observed under the microscope and many different techniques can be used to study the cell. The most commonly used techniques are optical microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, correlative light-electron microscopy and confocal microscopy.

Different methods of studying cells and their properties are as follows:

Cell culture
This is the basic technique where in cells are grown in the laboratory under controlled conditions and independent of any organism.

Immunostaining
This is a specialised method used to localise the protein in cells or tissue slices. It requires the reaction of an antibody against the protein within the cell or the tissue. The reaction can be achieved by using proper control and protocols. Once this is achieved, it can be identified with the ‘tag’ attached to it. Commonly used tags are fluorescence and enzymes. In the former method, fluorescence microscopy technique is commonly applied to determine the location of immuno-stained protein. In latter, chemical reaction is used that results in a dark colour in the protein. In addition to this, light microscopy is used to detect the location of the darkened protein.  

Gene knockout
In Gene knockout, researchers ‘knock out’ an existing cell and replace it with an artificial piece of DNA.

DNA microarray
DNA microarray is used to measure the expression level of a large number of genes simultaneously.

PCR
This technique is used to amplify a single cell or a few copies of a segment of the DNA across several orders of magnitude. Thus generating thousands of copies of a particular DNA sequence.

Computational genomics
Computational genomics is used to find patterns in genomic formation. It uses computational and statistical analysis to decipher biology.

Transfection
Transfection is a process in which mammalian cells are injected with genetic materials such as stranded RNA or DNA. This enables the production of protein using the cell’s own machinery.

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