High school

When did I first meet my true love, Biology?

Eventually, we got into the topic that will then become my passion: Biology! Again, we started from scratch and this time my teacher did not even have the need to actually relate anything to our everyday life, since Biology, from the Greek word βίος (bíos, “bio-, life”) +‎ -λογία (-logía, “-logy, branch of study”), is literally the science that investigates life and living organisms.

I literally felt as if Cupid threw a dart straight into my heart: I finally found a way to keep in touch with my passions as a kid (animals, nature and life in general) and make my studies and knowledge still useful for the living beings around me. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be a Biologist.

I was starting to connect all the dots and fit my Chemistry knowledge into the biological framework: life as we know it began from chemicals that started to interact with each other in order to create more and more complex structures up to what we can define as cells, the building blocks of life. Some of these cells then slowly figured out that they could cooperate and this was a big advantage to survive and reproduce. Cells began to gather and to form complex entities like organisms, leading to all the mesmerising variety of living beings surrounding us: we actually are the result of “the best” cells that formed billions of years ago!

Our bodies, or better, our cells, produce energy to properly work through cooperation and put order into the apparent chaos that life involves, in a synched and organised manner that make me believe how perfect our bodies are. To realise how true this statement is, we could think of a simple scratch on our hands that heals in couple of days. If this is possible and we do not bleed to death it is only because our bodies are able to coordinate an organised response that is capable to “close” the wound, while allowing for the skin to grow back into place. I just started my path on the long road of becoming a Biologist and the sparkle of love for the topic, like the beginning of a new love story, was very strong and fed by every single breeze of new information that I was studying, but the best was yet to come.

Since I mentioned how cooperation between cells is fundamental and it is only through these synching and cooperation that we are here now, today I will talk about two different types of cells, the ones that cooperate and are the building blocks of every multicellular organism as us human beings are, and the ones who are self-sufficient alone.

“Science Related Fact” (SRF):

As I already mentioned above, cells are the smallest fundamental unit of a living organism and they contain a nuclear and cytoplasmic material enclosed by a semipermeable membrane. There are two types of cells: eukaryotic, which contain a nucleus that provides the genetic material with extra protection, and prokaryotic, which do not. Prokaryotes are single-celled organisms, they pretty much consist of a cell wall with DNA inside, while eukaryotes can be either single-celled or multicellular and have a major internal organisation (see picture below).

“Differences between prokaryote and eukaryote cells”. The main differences between the two types of cells are listed. Modified from BOGObiology, youtube.com

The separation of activities that is found in the eukaryotic cells through membranes compartmentalisation facilitates continuous processes with high efficiency. This complexity allowed researchers to speculate that along the evolutionary path, the once simple prokaryotic cells teamed up to form more complex structure: an example of this could be the possible origin of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power house of the cell, producing all the energies they require via oxidative mechanisms. Due to the mitochondria peculiar characteristics, as for example having its own proper DNA, researchers started believing that mitochondria were originally prokaryotic cells that combined their abilities with the eukaryotic cells, to the mutual benefit of both, creating what now we can define a structured eukaryotic cell.

This approach of survival through cooperation is what pushed cells to “evolve” to form colonies that then evolved towards simple organisms with tissues formed by specialised cell types. Eventually, these organisms evolved tissues organised into organs, that are parts of an organism with specific vital function, allowing for living beings as we know them to appear. As we can learn from this quick peek at cell evolution via cooperation, increasing complexity increases the emergent abilities from evolving life forms.

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