The Human Body

Cell

Cell in biology, is the basic unit of life. Cells are the smallest structures capable of basic life processes, such as taking in nutrients, expelling waste, and reproducing. All living things are composed of cells. Some microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and protozoa, are unicellular, meaning they consist of a single cell. Plants, animals, and fungi are multicellular; that is, they are composed of a great many cells working in concert. But whether it makes up an entire bacterium or is just one of trillions in a human being, the cell is a marvel of design and efficiency. Cells carry out thousands of biochemical reactions each minute and reproduce new cells that perpetuate life.

Cells vary considerably in size. The smallest cell, a type of bacterium known as a mycoplasma, measures 0.0001 mm (0.000004 in) in diameter; 10,000 mycoplasmas in a row are only as wide as the diameter of a human hair. Among the largest cells are the nerve cells that run down a giraffe’s neck; these cells can exceed 3 m (9.7 ft) in length. Human cells also display a variety of sizes, from small red blood cells that measure 0.00076 mm (0.00003 in) to liver cells that may be ten times larger. About 10,000 average-sized human cells can fit on the head of a pin.