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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

piliFeeling Out Bacteriaís Sense of Touch
Scientists have learned how bacteria use their sense of touch to initiate infection and trigger the formation of harmful biofilms.

The Changing Needs of a Cell: No Membrane? No Problem!
While the vast majority of organelles in a cell are insulated by membranes, scientists are finding more and more membrane-less organelles that form as liquid droplets nested inside of each other.

Viruses: Manufacturing Tycoons?
Scientists observed a replicating virus storing copies of its DNA inside a compartment the virus built inside a host bacterium, providing possible evidence for how nucleus-containing eukaryotic cells evolved.

The Drama of Cell Death
The fruit fly spermatid, arranged here to look like a bursting firework, can serve as a model system for studying apoptosis, or cell death.

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Profiles: Meet a Scientist

Gautam DantasThe Irresistible Resistome: How Infant Diapers Might Help Combat Antibiotic Resistance (sort of)
Biochemist Gautam Dantas studies whatís deposited on infant diapers for clues about antibiotic resistance.

Cell Day 2016Get Your Cell Biology Questions Ready For Cell Day
Join NIGMS scientists on November 3 for Cell Day 2016, an opportunity for middle and high school students to ask experts about cell biology, biochemistry, research careers and more.

Rebecca HealdThe Science of Size: Rebecca Heald Explores Size Control in Amphibians
Cell biologist Rebecca Heald studies the factors that determine an animalís size.

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Audio and Video

Protesosome. Credit: Andreas Martin, University of California, BerkeleyThe Proteasome: The Cellís Trash Processor in Action
Our cells are constantly removing and recycling molecular waste. This video shows one way cells process their trash.

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.

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Cool Image: Biological Bubbles
Cells occasionally pinch off parts of their membranes to produce bubbles filled with proteins and lipids. These bubbles may aid in cell-to-cell communication. Researchers are trying to harness this process to develop better drug delivery techniques.

Beauty is in the Eye
Celebrate Healthy Vision Month with these four stunning images of the eye.

Actinís Many Roles
The protein (actin) that binds these two skin cancer cells together also plays a number of roles in cancerís invasion into new tissues in the body.

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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 August 3, 2017