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Thread: How have we come to know what cells need?

  1. #1 How have we come to know what cells need? 
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    How have we known that cells need protein, carbohydrates, and fats to survive? We can't see protein, so how do we know?

    How have we come to know that protein is one of the building blocks of life?


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  3. #2 Re: How have we come to know what cells need? 
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noSkillz
    How have we known that cells need protein, carbohydrates, and fats to survive? We can't see protein, so how do we know?

    How have we come to know that protein is one of the building blocks of life?
    This is a fairly far-reaching question, but perhaps I can point you in the direction of some answers. For starters, have a read of this:
    History of molecular biology. That should give you an outline of how things like proteins were first identified and characterised.

    To put it simply, we can see it in a manner of speaking. We can, for example, stain proteins with special dyes or label them with coloured antibodies and directly look at the proteins as they are located in the cells, even watch them move through cells in response to stimuli. We can make such observations directly using confocal microscopy or less directly using machines such as flow cytometers. We can also break cells apart and separate out various components for analysis using techniques such as electrophoresis and mass spectrometry.

    So that covers showing that the proteins are in there, showing some function and then more detailed analysis. We can can further then and establish the functions they perform by either blocking the active sites of the proteins and seeing what happens or, if we're working with a whole organism, we can knock out the gene that codes for the protein and see what that does.

    Hope this helps for starters.


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