Escape From the Environment

We all know that oil and water do not mix. And the relationship between water and oils or fats is the reason that cells exist at all.

Oil and water are compound molecules. Oils or fats are Organic molecules, while water is an Inorganic molecule. Though different types of molecules they both have what can be thought of as an electrical charge – sort of like a battery.

Electrical charges are generally the results of the activities of electrons within an atom, molecule or system of atoms and molecules.

Electrons are the rebel sons and daughters of the sub-atomic world, flitting about and going where they like whenever they can escape the stifling influence of their dull, boring and clueless parental units – the protons and neutrons of atomic nuclei.

And when atoms get together to form their own cliques, like the two hydrogen atoms and single oxygen atom that make up water, things can get downright tribal.

As much as carbon is the building block of life, water is the party headquarters of life – without it, there is no place for life to build itself.

Water molecules love each other in ways other molecules do not. H20 has hydrogen bonds that allow other water molecules to “bind” with each other in unique and life necessary ways.

And just as bonding is important to families, cliques and tribes, bonding is a key component of molecular life. Without bonds of some form or another, the atoms within molecules could not get together to form molecules in the first place.

Knowing the importance of bonding let’s take a look at how oil-based lipid membranes form in the environment to contain a different environment.

Lipids make it happen

Lipids make up the main barrier between the environment and the contents of the cell. This barrier, the cell membrane is actually composed of a lipid bilayer which forms naturally because of the properties of the molecules – at one end of the lipid is a water-loving “head” and the other end of the lipid is a water-hating tail.

Because of the bonding and electrochemical forces involved, the lipids form a bilayer where the heads orientate themselves against the surrounding water-based environment while the tails come together, leaving the water-repelling heads on the outside of the the membrane structure. This means a cell can now form because it has a way of keeping the chaotic environment out while enabling a controllable internal environment.

Image from “How Phospholipids Help Hold A Cell Together”

Help Hold a Cell Together

So finally, we have a discrete unit within the environment capable of having significant parts of itself sheltered from the environment.

There’s plenty of info everywhere on cell membranes, walls, transport mechanisms and the like that describe in exquisite detail the physiology of cell membranes.

Let’s see how this breakthrough relates to interacting with the environment, something we do constantly as whole, multi-cellular organisms.

Next Interacting With The Environment

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