What are the characteristics of a cancerous cell surface membrane?

What are the characteristics of a cancerous cell surface membrane?

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A notable characteristic of cancer is that it thrives at a high glycolytic rate, and doesn't require much aerobic respiration. I am curious, how does the cell surface membrane composition change so that less oxygen is able to diffuse into cancerous cells? Does the membrane become more rigid? Or how do the fatty acid tails, cholesterol, etc change?

Micro- and Nanoengineering of the Cell Surface

Micro- and Nanoengineering of the Cell Surface explores the direct engineering of cell surfaces, enabling materials scientists and chemists to manipulate or augment cell functions and phenotypes. The book is accessible for readers across industry, academia, and in clinical settings in multiple disciplines, including materials science, engineering, chemistry, biology, and medicine. Written by leaders in the field, it covers numerous cell surface engineering methods along with their current and potential applications in cell therapy, tissue engineering, biosensing, and diagnosis.

The interface of chemistry, materials science, and biology presents many opportunities for developing innovative tools to diagnose and treat various diseases. However, cell surface engineering using chemistry and materials science approaches is a new and diverse field. This book provides a full coverage of the subject, introducing the fundamentals of cell membrane biology before exploring the key application areas.

Micro- and Nanoengineering of the Cell Surface explores the direct engineering of cell surfaces, enabling materials scientists and chemists to manipulate or augment cell functions and phenotypes. The book is accessible for readers across industry, academia, and in clinical settings in multiple disciplines, including materials science, engineering, chemistry, biology, and medicine. Written by leaders in the field, it covers numerous cell surface engineering methods along with their current and potential applications in cell therapy, tissue engineering, biosensing, and diagnosis.

The interface of chemistry, materials science, and biology presents many opportunities for developing innovative tools to diagnose and treat various diseases. However, cell surface engineering using chemistry and materials science approaches is a new and diverse field. This book provides a full coverage of the subject, introducing the fundamentals of cell membrane biology before exploring the key application areas.

Cell Membrane Structure

Encyclopaedia Britannica / UIG / Getty Images

The cell membrane is primarily composed of a mix of proteins and lipids. Depending on the membrane’s location and role in the body, lipids can make up anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of the membrane, with the remainder being proteins. While lipids help to give membranes their flexibility, proteins monitor and maintain the cell's chemical climate and assist in the transfer of molecules across the membrane.

Characteristics of Cancer Cells

For the most part, normal cells adopt a specific, uniform cell shape once they differentiate. Depending on the cell, this may allow the cell to effectively perform their function in the body.

A good example of this is red blood cells that have a biconcave shape that allows them to carry red blood cells effectively. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are irregular in shape and misshapen with varying sizes.

Given that they do not attach to each other as other normal cells do (in various tissues) they also appear as a chaotic collection of cells when viewed under the microscope.

The irregular shape of cancer cells has also been identified in the nucleus and nucleolus of cancer cells. Whereas normal cells have a nucleus with a smooth appearance that is spherical in shape, the nucleus of cancer cells tends to be irregular with bulges (blebs). This irregularity is also evident on the nucleolus and may be divided into multiple nucleoli.

Unit 5 - final

All cells must be self-sufficient along with holding an ability to reproduce this can be in forms of binary fusion, mitosis or meiosis. The life span of every cell is variable. All cells require an energy source, many are from metabolic pathways and stored in the form of adenosine triphosphate. Cells will require this energy to respire which may be anaerobic or aerobic (depending upon the use of oxygen). As well as making use of enzymes and catalysts for a faster chemical reaction. Normally, cells grow to a certain size and then stop. Cells cease growing because of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Growth factors are proteins in the cell’s environment that attach to the plasma membrane, directing cells to continue growing. Growth factors cause cells to grow without initiating cell division.

Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells

Prokaryotic Cells

Prokaryotic cells member bound organelles (nucleus and

Mitochondria). Bacteria are amongst the simplest of

organisms - they are made of single cells. Their cell structure is simpler than the cells of eukaryotes and cells are smaller, most are 0.2 μm - 2.0 μm. Prokaryotic are one of the simplest cells of life, they reproduce very quickly and achieve cell division using binary fission meaning the cell will spilt into two identical cells. Prokaryotic cells are anaerobic (respire without the use of oxygen), this happens within the cytoplasm, their DNA is a single circular chromosome called plasmids and is contained in the central are by the nucleoid. (Bitesize 2020)

Eukaryotic Cells

Eukaryotic cells are cells that contain a nucleus and organelles, and are enclosed by a plasma membrane. Organisms that have eukaryotic cells include protozoa, fungi, plants and animals. Eukaryotic cells

are larger and more complex than prokaryotic cells, which are found in Archaea and Bacteria, the other two domains of life.


Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic cells are the division of two living organisms. All cells fall into one of these categories, whilst they do share a lot of similarities, they have a unique structure and function differently. For example both sets of cells are made up of DNA as a genetic material but a defining feature is that eukaryotic cells have a nucleus classing this as complex cell were as a prokaryotic cell has no nucleus which classes this as a simple cell. Eukaryotic cells are found within animals and plants were as prokaryotic cells are found within bacteria. I have created a table below show the key differences between the two cells:

No Organelles Cytoskeleton

Simple cell structure Complex cell structure

No Membrane organelles Membrane organelles

Primitive Contains a cell wall

DNA is free within nucleus DNA within nucleus

Smaller cells 10x larger prokaryotic cells

Can respire without the use of oxygen Depends on oxygen on whether it can respire

Lysosomes and Peroxisomes absent Lysosomes and Peroxisomes present

Cytoskeleton absent Cytoskeleton present

I have created a table Eukaryote sub-cellar structure and organelles:

Organelle Structure Function Nucleus  Largest membrane (organelle)  Double nuclear membrane and nuclear pore

The nucleus is the largest membrane-bound organelle, it has a double nuclear membrane and a nuclear pore. Described as the hub of a cell.

Cytoplasm  Contains salts, sugars, enzymes and amino acids  Located within the cell membrane Often referred to as a cytosol. The cytoplasm contains enzymes, sugars, salts, amino acids, and nucleotides. The enzymes are used for metabolic reactions, Located within the cell membrane.

 Long shape  Double membrane

Most important function is to produce energy, stores it as ATP molecules. It also referred as the ‘powerhouse cell’.

Ribosomes  Smallest membrane (organelle)  Most common found  Found in the cytoplasm  Attach themselves to the rough endoplasmic reticulum Ribosomes are the smallest organelle, they are the most numerous found. They are the site where proteins are made and synthesized. They are found within the cytoplasm, also attach themselves to the surface of the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER)

Cytoskeleton  Made from microfilaments and microtubules  Contains shape and motility (due to above bullet point)

The cytoskeleton is made up of microfilaments and microtubules, the main purpose of this is to maintain the cells' shape, support, and motility.

Nucleolus  Made from chromatin  Part of the creation of ribosomes  Located within nucleus

This is made up of chromatin and is involved in the manufacturing of ribosomes. Located within the nucleus.

 Contains digestive enzymes to break down old cells, food molecules, old organelles and pathogens

Breaks down and removes wastes, digests dead, damaged cells which pose threats - bacteria.

 Flattened membranes  Also referred to as ‘cisternae’  Proteins move through Golgi body  Receives proteins from RER

The Golgi body is a series of flattened membranes referred to as cisternae. Its primary function is to receive proteins from the RER and repackage these for use or secretion. Proteins are moved throughout the Golgi body being modified if necessary. As transferred the membrane pinches inward to form vesicles.

Gained Nutrients and Waste Products

The cell membrane excerpts waste and gains nutrients by from transferring substances, this can be in all different ways depending upon the substances nature. A few ways a membrane does this is explained below:


Lipid diffusion is used for steroid transportation. The Lipid bilayer allows small substances such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrophobic molecules to pass through the cell membrane and then pass down their concentration gradient into simple diffusion.


Facilitated diffusion is also used through concentration gradient with non-recurring energy and then classed as a passive transport. Facilitated diffusion is also known for the diffusion of solutes through transporting proteins in the plasma membrane classed as channels and carriers.

Passive Transport

Passive transport occurs when molecules diffuse across the cell membrane by passing through certain transportation proteins. The transportation happens when a high concentration molecules needs to go to a lower concentration. There is no use of energy in this as it goes with the concentration gradient. BBC Bitesize 2020

Active Transport

Active transport occurs when molecules at a low concentration are moved by different transport proteins across the cell membrane into a higher concentration. This movement require energy as it goes against the concentration gradient. ‘Energy is provided by the breakdown of ATP inside the cell. (BBC Bitesize 2020)’.

Vesicular transport

Vesicular transport is the predominant exchange of proteins and lipids between membrane- bound organelles in eukaryotic cells. There are three types of transport vesicles, as shown below:

  1. Clathrin Coated – Clathrin coated vesicles are formed from both the plasma membrane and the trans- Golgi network.
  2. COPI Coated COPI coated vesicles and COPII-coated emerge from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in order to export new proteins towards the Golgi.
  3. COPI - COPI vesicles appear in both biosynthetic (anterograde) and retrograde transport, within the Golgi complex. COPI mainly recycles proteins from the Golgi to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

Golgi-derived COPI-coated vesicles are involved in several vesicular transport steps, including bidirectional transport within the Golgi and recycling to the ER. (Company of Biologists 2020)


ATP is made within the respiration process ATP can be hydrolyzed into ADP/PI with the use of active transport. ATP is vital to cell’s survival as it will release energy when require for chemical reactions. It is dependent on the trophic levels of food to provide energy sources to be chemically changed into ATO. The mode widely used substrate for respiration is glucose, but may use proteins and liquids. Energy nutrients can be stored for future use. The three stages to cellular respiration are

  1. Glycolysis – This occurs within the cytoplasm and can happen with or without oxygen.
  2. Krebs cycle – it is a complex series of biochemical pathways which is better known as above, this occurs within the mitochondria and is a series of chemical reactions to release stored energy (BD editors 2019)
  3. Electron transport – this is the final stage of respiration, this occurs within the inner membrane of the mitochondria

molecules for this process are proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA. The anabolism process takes smaller molecules and builds them up into more complex ones, using the energy fuelled through ATP. The smaller molecules are joined to make bigger and different molecules referred to as macromolecules. Anabolism use these macromolecules to build cells and help new cells which are essential for growth, building organs and tissues. (BBC Bitesize, 2020)

Here are the few functions of Animal Cell:

  1. These cells control the processes in the body efficiently.
  2. Cells control synthesis and storage of energy.
  3. Cells also perform and control the Replication, Translation, and transcription of DNA.
  4. Cells are extremely dedicated to carrying out precise responsibilities.
  5. Red blood cells encompassed of Hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the cells which did not contain any nuclei and its main function is to transfer oxygen throughout the whole body.
  6. Inside the human body, ciliary cells are present in the Digestive Tract which increase the surface area and help in the process digestion.
  7. Numerous cells syndicate and form Tissues. Which perform a specialised function in the human body.
  8. Analogous tissues assembled and form the organs of the body, like lungs, brain and heart.

Nucleus Acids

Nucleic acids are essential biomolecules that are present in every form of life that we live in. They are present in all organisms from animals and bacteria to viruses and humans. Nucleic acids range in size from small biomolecules to large biopolymers. They are made up of repetitive subunits called nucleotides. The word nucleic acid is used for DNA and RNA.

Both nucleic differ in size, shape, location and function within the cell, as shown below.

RNA is also present in almost all living cells. RNA is the second most important nucleic acid present in the living things. It is a polymer of ribonucleotides having ribose as pentose sugar.

Transfer RNA (tRNA)

Transfer RNA transfers amino acids to the ribosomes so that they can be assembled into proteins. The RNA reads the code on the messenger (mRNA) RNA and carries the specific amino acids to the ribosomes so it can be transferred to the correct proteins.

Messenger RNA (mRNA)

The messenger RNA is responsible for the messages between the DNA and cytoplasm. It carries information for the present proteins within the nucleus of DNA to the ribosomes in the cell cytoplasm.

Ribosomal RNA (rRNA)

Ribosomal RNA is the most abundant RNA present in cells. It is an essential component of ribosomes present in bacterial and eukaryotic cells. The ribosomal RNA arranges itself into two subunits, a larger ribosomal subunit and a smaller ribosomal subunit. The structure of these two subunits differs in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

Cell Division and Daughter Cells

Within cell division there are two different types of cells mitosis and meiosis. Cell division is the reproductive mechanism where all living organisms develop and produce off spring.

Actively dividing eukaryote cells pass through a series of stages known collectively as the cell cycle: two gap phases (G1 and G2) an S (for synthesis) phase, in which the genetic material is duplicated and an M phase, in which mitosis partitions the genetic material and the cell divides.

Mitosis - When the mitosis cell cycle is complete, the cell divides into two daughter cells. Mitosis cells develop two identical body cells for growth and repair (when body becomes damaged it creates more cells). All cells must create genetic information in order to be identical to the parent cell.

Prophase - During early prophase chromosomes become visible as coiled threads which condense to shorten and thicken. As prophase progresses the centrioles move to opposite poles of the nucleus. The nuclear membrane envelopes down to disappear.

Metaphase - During metaphase the spindle becomes fully formatted, chromosomes become lined up at the equator of this spindle and pairs of chromatids attach to it by their centromere.

Anaphase - Here the chromatids are pulled apart by the movement of the spindle fibres splitting to become newly separated chromatids which are then referred to as chromosomes. Sister chromatids will move in the opposite direction towards the pole.

Telophase - Telophase is the final stage of mitosis, as the reach the poles of the spindle, chromatids uncoil and become invisible. The nuclear membrane reforms around each group, as the nucleolus reforms in each nucleus. Spindle fibres disintegrate. Each new cell will contain a copy of the DNA that it begins to replicate as the cell re-enters interphase.

There are two main steps of the cell cycle, interphase where the growth of the cell takes place, it is also the longest phase, where the dividing cell spends 90-95% of its time in preparation for mitosis phase.

G1 phase - Metabolic changes prepare the cell for division. At a certain point - the restriction point - the cell is committed to division and moves into the S phase.  S phase - DNA synthesis replicates the genetic material. Each chromosome now consists of two sister chromatids.  G2 phase - Metabolic changes assemble the cytoplasmic materials necessary for mitosis and cytokinesis.  M phase - A nuclear division (mitosis) followed by a cell division (cytokinesis).

The period between mitotic divisions - that is, G1, S and G2 - is known as interphase.

Interphase is broken down into 3 sub-phases. Gap 1 (G1) new cells go through normal growth and synthesise high amounts of protein, preparing to replicate DNA. Some organelles are produced, the cell grow and increases in volume. Only once the cell has synthesised enough ribosomes can it move into next phase. Synthesis (S) is the period in which DNA is replicated and the number of chromosomes also doubled. Gap 2 (G2) is the final stage, the cell continues to increase in size and replenish energy stores.

This is the cell cycle as shown starting with cell growth, then DNA synthesis after that further growth occurs and the DNA is checked for errors. The cell can only divide once it’s made copies of the organelles, then after dividing it has a resting period.

Meiosis –Meiosis is used in sexual reproduction, which then creates gametes. These are seen within animals, pollen and ova in plants as their sperm and egg. One diploid cell produces four haploid gametes, in two divisions.

This is the cell process that happens in the reproductive organs of both males and females. The chromosones create idential copies of themseleves then similar chromosones will pair up. After the sections of the DNA will get swapped then the division will happen and the second divison and soforeth.



All Cancer cells begin as a normal cell and it then becomes damaged versions of normal cells, normally this is down to adnormalities rather than single mutation. Cancer is caused by changes to a person’s DNA through chemicals or other agents called carcinogens. The carcinogens damage the DNA causing mutations, this causes the cell cycle to go wrong and stops correct signals being sent to cells, as cancer is a non-communicable disease. Cells may then divide when not needed, the mitosis stage then becomes uncontrolled. It is at this point that cancer cells may develop cells take control of their own growth and divide many times unchecked a lump of cells can form which is known as a tumour, were as (shown in the above image) normal cells stay very controlled and don’t grow at an abnormal rate and create clusters. I have created a table below that shows the difference between a cancer cell and a normal cell:

Organelles and Charteristics

I think cell biology is one of the most important subjected needed to learn within the science sector because it makes us understand how we live.


As stated in previous units using the pomodoro techinque has allowed me to finish this unit a lot faster than I normally would as I was giving myself breaks inbetween studying so I would not become fatigued.

I have used mainly BBC Bitesize for this unit and a few other websites from general research. I have also watched numerous videos on youtube and through BBC Bitesize about cells.


Many critical biological processes take place at hydrophobic:hydrophilic interfaces, and a wide range of organisms produce surface-active proteins and peptides that reduce surface and interfacial tension and mediate growth and development at these boundaries. Microorganisms produce both small lipid–associated peptides and amphipathic proteins that allow growth across water:air boundaries, attachment to surfaces, predation, and improved bioavailability of hydrophobic substrates. Higher-order organisms produce surface-active proteins with a wide variety of functions, including the provision of protective foam environments for vulnerable reproductive stages, evaporative cooling, and gas exchange across airway membranes. In general, the biological functions supported by these diverse polypeptides require them to have an amphipathic nature, and this is achieved by a diverse range of molecular structures, with some proteins undergoing significant conformational change or intermolecular association to generate the structures that are surface active.


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Membrane, in biology, the thin layer that forms the outer boundary of a living cell or of an internal cell compartment. The outer boundary is the plasma membrane, and the compartments enclosed by internal membranes are called organelles. Biological membranes have three primary functions: (1) they keep toxic substances out of the cell (2) they contain receptors and channels that allow specific molecules, such as ions, nutrients, wastes, and metabolic products, that mediate cellular and extracellular activities to pass between organelles and between the cell and the outside environment and (3) they separate vital but incompatible metabolic processes conducted within organelles.

Membranes consist largely of a lipid bilayer, which is a double layer of phospholipid, cholesterol, and glycolipid molecules that contains chains of fatty acids and determines whether a membrane is formed into long flat sheets or round vesicles. Lipids give cell membranes a fluid character, with a consistency approaching that of a light oil. The fatty-acid chains allow many small, fat-soluble molecules, such as oxygen, to permeate the membrane, but they repel large, water-soluble molecules, such as sugar, and electrically charged ions, such as calcium.

Embedded in the lipid bilayer are large proteins, many of which transport ions and water-soluble molecules across the membrane. Some proteins in the plasma membrane form open pores, called membrane channels, which allow the free diffusion of ions into and out of the cell. Others bind to specific molecules on one side of a membrane and transport the molecules to the other side. Sometimes one protein simultaneously transports two types of molecules in opposite directions. Most plasma membranes are about 50 percent protein by weight, while the membranes of some metabolically active organelles are 75 percent protein. Attached to proteins on the outside of the plasma membrane are long carbohydrate molecules.

Many cellular functions, including the uptake and conversion of nutrients, synthesis of new molecules, production of energy, and regulation of metabolic sequences, take place in the membranous organelles. The nucleus, containing the genetic material of the cell, is surrounded by a double membrane with large pores that permit the exchange of materials between the nucleus and cytoplasm. The outer nuclear membrane is an extension of the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum, which synthesizes the lipids for all cell membranes. Proteins are synthesized by ribosomes that are either attached to the endoplasmic reticulum or suspended freely in the cell contents. The mitochondria, the oxidizing and energy-storing units of the cell, have an outer membrane readily permeable to many substances, and a less-permeable inner membrane studded with transport proteins and energy-producing enzymes.

Cell Structure

The cells of protists are among the most elaborate of all cells. Multicellular plants, animals, and fungi are embedded among the protists in eukaryotic phylogeny. In most plants and animals and some fungi, complexity arises out of multicellularity, tissue specialization, and subsequent interaction because of these features. Although a rudimentary form of multicellularity exists among some of the organisms labelled as “protists,” those that have remained unicellular show how complexity can evolve in the absence of true multicellularity, with the differentiation of cellular morphology and function. A few protists live as colonies that behave in some ways as a group of free-living cells and in other ways as a multicellular organism. Some protists are composed of enormous, multinucleate, single cells that look like amorphous blobs of slime, or in other cases, like ferns. In some species of protists, the nuclei are different sizes and have distinct roles in protist cell function.

Single protist cells range in size from less than a micrometer to three meters in length to hectares! Protist cells may be enveloped by animal-like cell membranes or plant-like cell walls. Others are encased in glassy silica-based shells or wound with pellicles of interlocking protein strips. The pellicle functions like a flexible coat of armor, preventing the protist from being torn or pierced without compromising its range of motion.


The Institute for Translational Nanomedicine, Shanghai East Hospital, The Institute for Biomedical Engineering & Nano Science, School of Medicine, Tongji University, Shanghai, 200092, China

Wenjun Le, Bingdi Chen, Zheng Cui, Zhongmin Liu & Donglu Shi

Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA


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