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How do protein compounds get food into our cells?

Our cells have a clever way of getting essentials like nutrients into the cell, but researchers aren’t yet entirely sure how this transfer occurs. Now they know a little more.

Cells have a membrane, which is an outer layer through which nothing can pass. When nutrients are forced to enter the cell from the outside, something very useful happens: special proteins collect on the inside of the membrane, deforming it so that a kind of funnel is created inside, where the substances are loaded and then the funnel of the vehicle that drives the load inside the cell.

In cells in the lab, they’ve seen this happen hundreds of times a minute. But opinions are divided on exactly how these compounds are formed. So the proteins of the compounds took on color – I pretend it’s simple, but this requires high-tech equipment – and so they saw that there were several ways the funnel could form.

This is because membrane deformation can begin to move: before the proteins arrive, or a little later, or only 4 seconds later. They believe, among other things, that the type of payload plays a role in choosing between these processes, but they need to investigate this further.

Anyway, it’s again a nice and important insight into the functioning of our cells, because the more we know, the better we can solve problems in these kinds of processes.

Read more: Fluorescent microscopy shows how living cells form vesicles to transport cargo such as growth factors

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