MadSci Network: Cell Biology

Re: Does Paper contain cells?

Date: Sun Oct 17 14:43:41 1999
Posted By: Melanie Stegman, Grad student, Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Cincinnati
Area of science: Cell Biology
ID: 938177866.Cb

No.  Paper IS made from wood and wood IS made of cells.  But the wood is
processed in many ways which will kill cells.  (Boiling, for example)  When 
plant cells die, they leave their cell walls behind.  Animal cells, like 
yours, do not have a cell wall.  But plants do.  That's why plants are 
stiff and snap when you bend them to far.  Their walls help them stand 
straight, and they help the plants keep their water pressure high enough 
for the water to travel from the roots to the leaves.
If you look at a very thin piece of wood under a microscope you might see 
the cell walls.  If you look at a very thin piece of cork you can see holes 
where the cells were.  That is were the first "cells" were seen, actually.  
Robert Hooke looked at cork with a microscope in the 16oo's.  Here is a 
link to a site about the history of light microscopes: http://www.utm  
What Hooke saw was the holes left by the cells when they died.  The cell 
walls look like holes when you cut them thin enough.
Looking at LIVE cells through a microscope is very different.  with a very 
good microscope you can see not just cells walls of a plant, but you can 
see a hint of all the fantastic things going on inside the live cell.  You 
can see that the cell is not empty, it may be green in color.  You might 
see the nucleus of the cell.  

If you wanted to prove that you were looking at plant cells, you should 
look at thin slices of your material (like the paper) and then compare what 
you see to other people's reports about the appearances of live cells.  
Live cells contain many many things.  So when you look at them with the 
light microscope you should see that the cells are not completely 
transparent  You should see a nucleus.  It will look like a small circle 
inside the cell.  You can ask your teacher or look in your biology books 
for pictures of live cells observed through light microscopes.  And you can  
look up Robert Hooke's picture of cork.  He drew the picture by hand.  That 
is the traditional way to record your observations.

Maybe you could study some materials that contain live cells and those that 
don't.  You could draw your observations and compare them to other reports.  
Than you could conclude which are live cells.  Here are some examples.
Dead cells:  Natural sponge, natural cork, dead leaf from tree

Live cells:  Live leaf, a small fish's tail (it's transparent so you can 
use the light microscope to the fish's cells) eggs are rather large cells, 
you could look at fish eggs, for example.  Flower petals.

You could try looking at pond water, or water from a dirty fish tank.  You 
might see algae (green "dirty" stuff in the pond).  Have a look.  Good 

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