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Chemistry of Life

Introduces molecules and chemical reactions in the context of living beings.

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The Changes of Time
Teacher Contributed

The Changes of Time

Do Old People Have Old Cells?

So as you grow older your body changes, we all know this, but do all parts of you get older? This is a slightly different question. Our cells divide and we heal wounds. Certainly some of our cells are new even if we are old. But, other cells, like those in our heart or brain, don't seem to change. Are they as old as we are? And what about the stuff in the cell--the DNA, the RNA, the proteins? Are they as old as the cells? Are they as old as us? This isn't an easy question to answer, but researchers are working on it, and here's some of what they are finding.

Extension Investigation

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. Are non-dividing cells more vulnerable to damage than dividing cells? Why is this the case?
  2. What is the average age for most proteins in the body? Does this surprise you? Why or why not? How does this situation benefit organisms by recycling elements?
  3. Do you think the fact that some proteins last longer than others means that some proteins are more important than others or is how long a protein lasts just a reflection of its function in the body? Explain your thinking as thoroughly as possible.
  4. How do researchers hope to understand healthy aging by the study of proteins?
  5. What are ELLP's? Where have they been identified to occur in a rat's central nervous system? Why does this suggest they may have unique importance in organisms?

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