Ribosome function. DNA helix.

Ribosome Function: Factory Of Life


Yes, the ribosome function is so vital that it can only be described as such.

Don’t be afraid of its name which I am about to mention. I will try to keep technical terms to the minimum. But to understand and appreciate the role and beauty of it, there will be a minimum number of technical names that have to be used. 

It is the awesome Ribosome.

Ribosome function. The awesome human eye.

Ribosome Function

Every living thing has it, whether it be a human being, animal or plant. There are countless numbers of them and they live inside cells. 

Each ribosome is a real factory, and it manufactures the most important of what a living thing needs, proteins. As you may know, proteins are found throughout the body — in bone, skin, muscle, hair, all organs, in the blood, etc. And the proteins are manufactured by the ribosomes. 

That is why, in the title of this article, I described the ribosome as the factory of life. Because proteins are life.

Ribosome function. The intriguing animal eye.

Analogy… It Makes it Easier

I have to mention now another technical term! Amino acids. There are 20+ of them in the body, and they are the building blocks of proteins. A good analogy are the letters of the alphabet. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet. Together, these letters are used to form words. Similarly, the 20+ amino acids are used to form proteins.

To continue with this analogy, the 26 letters of the English alphabet form 170,000+ English words. And the 20+ amino acids form 10,000+ proteins that keep the body healthy and functioning.

So the amino acids compare to the letters of the alphabet, and the proteins compare to the words, but in lesser number: there are 10,000+ proteins in the body compared to the 170,000+ English words.

And how are those proteins manufactured? Correct, by the ribosomes.

Millions of Them

Now, here comes a shocking bit: there can be approximately 10 million ribosomes per cell, each busy lining up amino acids to form proteins. I bet you didn’t see this coming! I mean, that is an unimaginable number of ribosomes to exist in one living cell, itself a tiny microscopic unit of all known organisms.

Take a moment to visualize this. It’s okay. I keep taking many moments myself to do just that whenever I think about it.

Pause and visualize
Ribosome function. Take a moment to visualize this.

Now, the next staggering bit: most recent estimates put the number of cells in the average human body at around 30 trillion. That is 30,000,000,000,000!

If the word mind-boggling was invented for a reason, it must have been to describe this!

This does make one wonder how this can be.

Of course, there are many other organelles beside the ribosomes that exit in a cell. But our article is about them so we will stick to that. 

Are you ready to go on? For there are more astonishing bits.

Come On… Give Me My Instructions

As said, the ribosome is a tiny factory that keeps working. Much like any factory, it needs raw materials and production instructions to fulfill its work. The raw materials are the 20+ amino acids and the instructions on what to do and in which sequence, come from the DNA — Deoxyribonucleic acid. The DNA is a molecule that resides mainly in the nucleus, the cell’s command center. It is composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix. It carries the genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms. Simply put, it is our core, our essence, the who we are.

Ribosome function. The DNA double helix. The essence of all living organisms.

The ribosome needs a fragment of those instructions to know how to produce a protein. It receives the instructions from the nucleus, via a messenger! Yes, really! And this messenger is called mRNA — messenger RNA. Suffice it to say that the mRNA carries a copy of the instructions in the DNA that are relevant to the manufacture of that particular protein. The process by which this copying is achieved is called transcription and is beyond our article.

The mRNA leaves the nucleus with its bag of instructions and travels to the ribosome. Mind you, all this takes place within the cell.

Once at the ribosome, the instructions are read — they are translated, and the assembly of the correct amino acids in the proper sequence can now be carried out. These amino acids float in the cellular liquid, the cytoplasm, which is bounded by the cell membrane. They are picked up and brought to the ribosome and end up in the emerging protein chain.

This is how a protein is made and it can now be used in whichever way in the tissue or organ or anywhere in the body.

Works Of Wonder

If you ask me, this is really astounding! It is like there is an intelligent brain controlling these actions. Imagine the precision at this microscopic level: one step in the instructions read wrongly, and the wrong amino acid ends up in the protein chain, surely altering the type and function of the protein. How can this degree of precision and order be maintained at this microscale and without fail and across millions of ribosomes in one cell and in trillions of cells in the human body?!

Since I learned about this, I have never ceased to be amazed. The more I go into the details, studying whatever new discoveries in this field come out, the more inexplicable the whole thing becomes. 

A human being, an animal, a tree, a virus are truly works of wonder and awe. It makes you think how have we come to be? How were the ribosomes, and other equally astonishing organelles in the body, designed and put to work? One thing is certain: it cannot be coincidence. Things this precise and orderly simply cannot happen just like this.

mRNA vs Covid-19

It is interesting to mention that the mRNA is the basis of the new Covid-19 coronavirus vaccines. Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 using this new type of vaccines, simply means introducing instructions (mRNA) for the cells to start producing a type of protein carried by the Covid-19. When the body sees that, it starts an immune response to fight it. It is genius but scary. 

More details can be found here:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Ribosome function. Covid19 Coronavirus.

Final words

This is a highly technical subject that deals with the inner workings of the cell. It normally involves a great number of scientific terms and processes. I hope I succeeded in making it accessible to all, especially to those who dislike technicalities. I tried to present the subject in an easy-to-read manner.

I urge you to learn more about this, as the detailed functioning of a cell is truly fascinating to say the least.

We will definitely have more articles in this Science section, that aim at making difficult and advanced subjects within reach of many.

Extra Material. Very Interesting

Before I leave you, and if you got hooked on the subject, check out these two videos that explain nicely with animation how the mRNA works and the cell structure and organelles.

This video clarifies how instructions in the DNA are copied onto the mRNA and shows how the mRNA travels outside the nucleus and binds with a ribosome for the production of a protein. Thanks to ‘yourgenome’ channel on YouTube for this awesome animation.

This video explains the cell structure and the different organelles. Many thanks to ‘Nucleus Medical Media’ channel.

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