What All Fifth Graders Know

Most human DNA is packaged in chromosomes within the nucleus; however, mitochondria also have a small amount of their own DNA.  This genetic material is known as mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA.  Mitochondria are structures within cells that convert the energy from food into a form that cells can use.  Each cell contains hundreds to thousands of mitochondria, which are located in the fluid that surrounds the nucleus called the cytoplasm.  I read that sniffing farts might be healthy for you, as this could prevent mitochondria damage.  People that are alive will at some point need to eat, they will breathe, their hearts will beat, they will excrete the food that they digested, discharge liquids as they urinate and they will pass gas out their rectums at times, as these are all normal functions that make us human.

You are a macroscopic eukaryote and virtually all the life we see each day, including plants and animals belongs to the Eukaryota domain.  Endosymbiosis is a hypothesized process by which prokaryotes (microscopic single-celled organisms) gave rise to the first eukaryotic cells (organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes).  The complex eukaryotic cell ushered in a whole new era for life on Earth, because these cells evolved into multicellular organisms.  It is thought that eukaryotic cells are actually the descendants of separate prokaryotic cells that joined together in a symbiotic union.

Fifth grade students learn about the role of mitochondria in a cell’s energy production.  Mitochondria are organelles floating free that act like a digestive system by taking in nutrients, breaking them down, to create energy rich molecules for the cell.  The phrase “powerhouse of the cell” is used to describe the function of mitochondria and it was coined by biologist Philip Siekevitz in the article Powerhouse of the Cell published in 1957.  If a cell feels it is not getting enough energy to survive, more mitochondria can be created.  Sometimes mitochondria can grow larger or combine with other mitochondria, it all depends on the needs of the cell.

Scientists need to be receptive to new ideas and suggestions.  As new evidence is discovered, new ways of interpreting and understanding it may have to be considered.  Mitochondria were considered to be absolutely indispensable components of the eukaryotic cell and for decades, researchers tried to find eukaryotic cells that don’t have mitochondria and then on May 12, 2016, biologist Anna Karnkowska and her team from Charles University in Prague published results of their study which found a eukaryote without a mitochondrial organelle.  The previous definition of eukaryotic cells is that they had to have mitochondria and now that has been dismissed.  The new organism is called monocercomonoides and it was found living in the intestines of chinchilla hosts

Written for Normal Happenings Daily Inkling prompt – Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

11 thoughts on “What All Fifth Graders Know

  1. What do you think of the idea of humans being a kind of cosmic mitochondria? It’s all a matter of degree. More like a virus than a mitochondria, one confined to the lip of the universe at this point.

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