While we are in the underwater world of living cells inside us, it becomes obvious that there is quite a bit of construction going on all around us. Communities of billions of cells houses are being taken down and rebuilt every day; equivalent in scope to the demolition and rebuilding of every building on earth, every day. What does our body need to build and rebuild our cells?
Building Materials — Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals, molecules taken from our food), fuel (sugars and fats), amino acids (the building blocks for proteins). All of these molecular materials are found in plants, you can build an elephant from just the materials found in plants.
Water and electrolytes [salts] — A nice high water table helps everything work smoother, a low water table slows everything down.
Oxygen — This hardly needs mentioning. Let’s point out, however, that oxygen is only one of the many oxidants that are essential to the function of our cells.
Building Plans — The building plans for the cell are found in the DNA. In the DNA there is a repository of all the plans needed to build the micro machines, workers, and structures in the cell.
Messengers — These are the signaling molecules that run back and forth delivering messages to the workers. They read the DNA plans, push the genetic buttons that create the workers and machines, and deliver the messages that tell the workers what to do.
Is there anything else needed? I think we have listed everything we need to build a cell. Out of these components, which one do you find most interesting?
In the last 15 years almost all of the groundbreaking work in cellular microbiology has been done on the messenger components of the cell, affording the scientists several Nobel Prizes. Redox signaling messengers (made from the most abundant elements in nature) are perhaps the most fundamental of all the messengers in the cell. They pass the messages needed to build and maintain all the types of cells that exist in nature. There is no doubt that understanding the messenger systems of the cell will bring us the next greatest discoveries in life sciences.