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Chapter: Medical Physiology: Introduction to Physiology: Functional Organization of the Human Body and Control of the “Internal Environment”

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Cells as the Living Units of the Body

The basic living unit of the body is the cell. Each organ is an aggregate of many different cells held together by intercellular supporting structures.

Cells as the Living Units of the Body

The basic living unit of the body is the cell. Each organ is an aggregate of many different cells held together by intercellular supporting structures.

Each type of cell is specially adapted to perform one or a few particular functions. For instance, the red blood cells, numbering 25 trillion in each human being, transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Although the red cells are the most abundant of any single type of cell in the body, there are about 75 trillion additional cells of other types that perform functions different from those of the red cell. The entire body, then, contains about 100 trillion cells.

Although the many cells of the body often differ markedly from one another, all of them have certain basic characteristics that are alike. For instance, in all cells, oxygen reacts with carbohydrate, fat, and protein to release the energy required for cell function. Further, the general chemical mechanisms for chang-ing nutrients into energy are basically the same in all cells, and all cells deliver end products of their chemical reactions into the surrounding fluids.

Almost all cells also have the ability to reproduce additional cells of their own kind. Fortunately, when cells of a particular type are destroyed from one cause or another, the remaining cells of this type usually generate new cells until the supply is replenished.

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