Happy Halloween 🎃🕸🕷!
Pumpkins 🎃, ghosts 👻, spiders 🕷, witches 🌒 and the undead ⚰
For one day each year they fill you with dread 🦇
But no matter what haunting 👻 and creepy 🕷 things fill you with fear 👀
For this year’s 🎃 Spooky Science💀 post there’s something I want you to hear
There’s something I want to tell you, something I want to share 🕸
About a thing that goes from the tips of your toes ☠, all the way to just under your hair 💀
We all have one that sometimes snaps, pops and breaks ☠
For some it will click and creek 🦇, and for some it will ache 🕸
But is there more to a skeleton than just a skull 💀 and some bones ☠ ?
Perhaps we can find them in more places 👀 than just under gravestones ⚰
Okay, so my poetry skills leave ALOT to be desired! So instead, let’s get back to the science!
We all have skeletons in the closet right? Those deep dark secrets or guilty pleasures that you don’t want even your nearest and dearest to know about you! But forgetting about these for a second, how many skeletons can we find in our bodies?
Just the one right?
The one made out of 206 bones that helps us to protect our vital organs, gives us support and allows us to move, stores our minerals and produces our blood cells!
Are you sure about that?
Want to have another guess?
You’re sure it’s just the one yeah?
Well, what if I told you there are trillions of skeletons hidden in your bodies. No, I’ve not gone mad or had a witch cast a spell on me! They are not ghostly remains or haunting zombies that are stuck in your bodies either! But if you think about what else there are trillions of in your body – that might give you a clue?
The answer is cells! There are trillions of different cells that make up our bodies and each of them has their own skeleton! It is called the cytoskeleton – which literally translates to cell skeleton – and like our own bony skeletons it helps to protect our cells, gives them structure, and helps them to move!
What is the cytoskeleton made up of?
Just like our skeleton is made up of a collection of different bones, the cytoskeleton in all our cells is also made up of different components parts!! There are three major classes of parts that make up the cytoskeleton that form long threads of proteins to make filaments. These classes are:
- intermediate filaments and
- actin filaments
Microtubules tend to grow out from the centre of the cell all the way to its walled edges that makes it look like a creepy spider with more like 8,000 legs than 8! But each one of these filaments is like a hollow straw that is made up of repeats of two proteins called tubulin. The job of the microtubules is basic organisation in the cell – it keeps all those protein making factories – ribosomes – or energy producing parts – mitochondria – for example where they should be. They are forever changing in length! Those tubulin protein repeats are constantly added or removed in order for the filament to get longer or shorter!
Intermediate filaments are generally strong and rope-like. They don’t tend to change in length as much as the others and usually work alongside the fragile microtubules to give strength and support to our cells. Because if we didn’t have that structure, our cells would probably burst and ooze out its ectoplasm-like contents!
Actin filaments help our cells move, hold specialised shapes and divide! These are made up of long spiral chains of the protein actin and like the microtubules change in length often. When our cells are moving, the actin filaments grow and grow and causes a creepy arm-like protrusion at one end – almost like something is living inside and is stretching its arms to try and burst out! They push the edge of the cell forwards before the cells stick to this newly reached point before the actin filaments grow out again to help the cell get that little bit further along its path. So, basically actin is like our cell’s muscles helping them move from one destination to the next.
But it was actually in the muscles of our bodies that actin was first discovered! In our muscle cells, actin has a really important job! It slides across filaments of another protein called myosin! And this sliding of actin and myosin filaments across each other allows our muscles to contract! So, when you’re jumping out from the corner trying to scare someone, or perhaps running away from the fright of your life tonight – you can thank the actin in your cytoskeleton that allows you to do that!
What else does the cytoskeleton do?
We know that the cytoskeleton contributes to the architecture of the cell. Like our skeleton, it gives our cells shape, strength and mobility. It acts as the skeleton and muscles of our cells!
But it also has another role! It is a cargo transport system! It is the highways or shipping channels of our cells too! But like any transport system, it needs some carriers, and that is in the form of motor proteins – think of them like those huge cargo ships or trains travelling along their paths to bring their precious cargo from A to B!
I’ve already introduced you to one of these motor proteins – myosin – but there are two others:
- kinesin and
Most small molecules in the cell such as gases and glucose or sugar will diffuse through to wherever they need to go. But larger molecules are simply too big to just diffuse through slowly. Instead they need to get transported through the crowded cell! And that’s where our motor proteins come in!
Two of these motor proteins stick together and then attach to a microtubule and literally walk along the cytoskeleton pulling the cargo behind it! This feat truly amazes me and that it really looks like two little feet moving along is amazing! Almost like the motor proteins have a mind of their own!
What does the cytoskeleton really look like?
In simple terms, the cytoskeleton is just like a big mesh found within our cells. Almost like, these tiny freaky cobwebs that are forever changing shape to suit the needs of the cell!
So, is there more than one skeleton 💀 hidden in our bodies?
One made out of bone and trillions of others in each of the cell’s in our body!
A bit of basic cell biology for you with a Halloween twist! Okay – so it was a little bit of a trick question, but hopefully learning something new was a treat!
But just remember kids..
Skeletons are for life, not just for Halloween 🎃🕸🕷!
If learning about skeletons just wasn’t enough Spooky Science for you today then check out last years post too about the zombie genes that we all have! Hope you enjoyed my extra spooky science special blog post today! Let me know in the comments below or if you have any other spooky science stories to share! Happy Halloween 🎃🕸🕷!
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