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Science Education: Cell Biology

A scanning electron microscope picture of a nerve ending. Credit:Tina Carvalho, University of Hawaii at Manoa.Understanding the structure and function of cells and their many parts, in health and in disease—that's cell biology. Studies in cell biology focus on questions like:

  • How do cells move, communicate, divide and ultimately die?
  • How are cellular components made and maintained?
  • What tools do we need to study cells up close and in real time?

Follow the links below to learn more about cell biology,including recent developments, and read profiles of researchers working in this field.


Cover image of Inside the CellInside the Cell
Explores the interior design of cells and vividly describes the processes that take place within cellular organelles and structures.

Cover image of The Structures of LifeThe Structures of Life
Reveals how understanding the shape of biological molecules involved in many cellular processes provides insight into health and disease.

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Classroom Poster

Seeing Cells PosterSeeing Cells Poster
Displays a variety of cell images and some basic facts about cells.

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Fact Sheet

A dividing cell. Credit: Jean Cook and Ted Salmon Labs, University of North Carolina School of MedicineStudying Cells
Trillions of cells make up our bodies, and researchers continue to learn more about their features and functions. Discover some recent advances.

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Science Highlights

Sample slide, variability of mRNA in yeast cells How Cells Manage Chance
Chance events at the molecular level can affect human health. The ability of the cell division cycle to function properly despite random fluctuations in one of its key players is an active area of research.

Illustration of cell fusion. Credit: Shuo Li. Cellular ‘Cruise Control’ Systems Let Cells Sense and Adapt to Changing Demands
Molecular “cruise control” systems help cells sense and respond to the demands being placed on them during critical life processes.

C. elegans. Credit: Ewa M. Davison. Surprising Role for Protein Involved in Cell Death
A protein known for removing cellular corpses also appears to repair certain injured cells, keeping them from degenerating.

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Profiles: Meet a Scientist

Ron ValeSharing ‘Behind the Scene’ Stories About Scientific Discoveries
Motor protein scientist Ron Vale answers questions about a science education project that gives people around the world broader access to research seminars and conveys the excitement of the discovery process.

Marc ZimmerGreen Light
Chemist Marc Zimmer studies protein molecules that make animals glow in the dark—and help scientists study their cells.

Peggy GoodellMastering Stem Cells
Researcher Peggy Goodell pursues the properties and uses of stem cells.

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Audio and Video

A microtubule, part of the cell's skeleton, builds and deconstructs. Credit: Eva Nogales lab, University of California, Berkeley.Cool Video: How a Microtubule Builds and Deconstructs
In a process critical for many biological activities, tubulin proteins snap into place to build a microtubule, part of the cell's skeleton, which then falls to pieces from its top end.

Credit: Huey Huang, Rice University. Cool Video: How Bee Venom Toxin Kills Cells
A new video that shows how a toxin destroys an animal or bacterial cell might help scientists design new drugs to combat bacterial infections.

CiliaCool Video: How Cilia Do the Wave
Thin, hairlike biological structures called cilia are tiny but mighty. Working together, cilia play essential roles in human health, such as sweeping debris from the lungs.

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Bright amorphous loops. Credit: Sue Jaspersen, Zulin Yu and Jay Unruh, Stowers Institute for Medical Research.Tracing Proteins in Action
A novel imaging technique offers never-before-seen glimpses of proteins that play a key role in cell duplication.

Computer-generated sketch of a DNA origami folded into a flower-and-bird structure. Credit: Hao Yan, Arizona State University. DNA Origami
This image shows the latest capability of a technique for folding DNA into complex arrangements, which might find future use in biomedical applications.

Stem cells transform into neurons. Credit: Kiessling Lab, University of Wisconsin-Madison.Cool Image: Of Surfaces and Stem Cells
The green threads shown here are neurons that have just formed from unspecialized cells called stem cells.

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Quizzes and Puzzles

Cells Professor Cartoon Test Your Science IQ! Game: Cells
HTML Versions: High School Level | College Level | Graduate Level
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Inside the Cell puzzle Inside the Cell Crossword Puzzle | Accessible Version

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This page last reviewed on November 23, 2015