Cell Biology

Course CodeBSC110
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

An essential foundation course for all people interested in plants. The cell is the basic unit of life. Its knowledge is most essential to understand how life works for higher animals and plants.


This provides an essential foundation for anyone interested in plants. The cell is the basic unit of life. Its knowledge is most essential to understand how life works for higher animals and plants.

Cell biology is an introductory course designed for everone wanting to learn more about biology. This is a foundation course for those wishing to have a career in health sciences, biology and biochemistry. Upon completion of this course students should have a sound understanding of cell structure and processes.

What is a Cell?

"The word cell is derived from the Latin “cella” which means “small room”. Cells are the units from which all living organisms are built. Some organisms (e.g. bacteria) have only one cell in the entire organism. Others are multicellular. A human body can contain an estimated 100,000 billion cells.


Each cell is a self-contained and partially self-sufficient compartment designed to carry out a limited series of functions. While the structure and function of cells is extremely variable, their basic structure is similar. All cells are bound by an outer membrane and contain cytoplasm and DNA."

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Cells and Their Structure
    • What is a cell, history of cell biology; prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells; cell shape and size; cell structure; the nucleus; the nucleolus; euchromatin and heterochromatin; the animal cell; the plant cell; human cells.
  2. Cell Chemistry
    • Cell chemical composition; carbohydrates; lipids; nucleic acids; proteins; enzymes; cell membranes; golgi apparatus.
  3. DNA, Chromosomes and Genes
    • What is DNA, Chromosomes, Genes; DNA replication; telomeres and telomerase; genetics; case study in genetic inheritance; phenotype and genotype; gene mutations.
  4. Cell Division: Meiosis and Mitosis
    • Mitosis and meiosis overview; mitosis; meiosis.
  5. Cell Membranes
    • Membranes; structure of cell membranes; movement of molecules through cell membranes; endocytosis; osmosis and filtration; hydrostatic pressure; active transport; electro-chemical gradient; nutrient and waste exhange in animal cells; mediated and non-mediated transport.
  6. Protein Structure and Function
    • Protein structure; fibrous proteins; globular proteins; protein organisation; primary to quaternary structure; protein function.
  7. Protein Synthesis
    • Overview; the function of ribonucleic acid in protein synthesis; transcription and translation; initiation; elongation; termination.
  8. Food, Energy, Catalysis and Biosynthesis
    • Sources of energy; metabolism within the cell; catabolic metabolism; anabolic metabolism; ATP movement; Kreb's cycle; production and storage of energy; energy production pathways from different foods; biosynthesis of cell molecules; mitochrondria; chloroplasts.
  9. Intracellular Compartments, Transport and Cell Communication
    • Cell communication; endocrine signalling; paracrine signalling; autocrine signalling; cytoskeleton; actin filaments; intermediate filaments; microtubules.
  10. The Cell Cycle and Tissue Formation
    • The cell cycle; phases of the cell cycle; cell cycle regulation; cell death; cells to bodies; stem cells; animal tissues including muscle, connective, epithelial, nerve; blood.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Review basic cell structure and discuss the scope and nature of cell biology.
  • Describe the chemical components and processes of cells.
  • Describe the storage of genetic information within cells and how this information is passed on to the next generation.
  • Describe key concepts in molecular biology.
  • Discuss membrane structure and transport across cell membranes.
  • Discuss protein structure and function.
  • Describe and discuss protein synthesis.
  • Describe the significant processes involved in transfer and storage of energy in a cell.
  • Describe the significant processes that occur in cell communication and intracellular transport
  • Describe the life cycle of cells and how they combine to create different types of tissues.

Learn How Cells Communicate with Each Other  - and much more

Cell communication and interactions between organisms can range from cooperative to antagonistic. This is true for single-celled organisms and even the individual cells that make up multicellular organisms. As a general rule, cooperation among individuals (or cells) is more likely (though by no means guaranteed) the more genetically similar the cells or individuals are, with nearly complete cooperation occurring particularly when organisms (or cells) are genetically identical plus dependent upon one another for their replication. 

Such is the case among the cells that make up most multicellular organisms, and cell-to-cell communication represents how such cells coordinate their physiological behaviors so as to create a cooperative whole, one that is greater than the sum of their cellular parts. When cell-to-cell communication is unsuccessful, a result can be a harmful absence of cooperation, which between cells within a multicellular organism we might recognize as tumors or cancer, as adult-onset diabetes, as developmental abnormalities, etc.  There is much research and funding in this area as scientist are hoping to unlock the keys to many diseases with this research. 

Most cell-to-cell communication involves some kind of chemical signaling, including: 

  • Chemicals that are allowed to freely diffuse between cells, 
  • Chemicals that are received by a cell only given cell-to-cell contact, and 
  • Chemicals that freely diffuse from one cell’s cytoplasm to another’s via junctions directly linking the cytoplasms of adjacent cells. 

Signals can be purposeful in the sense that one cell is sending off a signal meant to be received and interpreted in a certain way by another cell (e.g., a hormone). Alternatively, signals can be byproducts of cellular metabolism that one cell releases essentially as waste or without intending (in an evolutionary algorithm sense) to initiate a signal to another cell, but nevertheless other cells are capable of interpreting those signals and acting on them (e.g., the release of lactic acid from an anaerobically exercising muscle cell).

Communication by extracellular signals usually involves six steps:

  • synthesis 
  • release of signaling molecules by the signaling cell 
  • transport of the signal to the target cell 
  • detection of the signal by a specific receptor protein 
  • and change in cellular metabolism or gene expression triggered by the receptor-signaling molecule complex 
  • removal of the signal, often terminating the cellular response 

All cells carry out some kind of communication with their surroundings. Cells communicate by secreting molecules which attach to specialised cell structures called receptors, which are located on target cells. In cell communication, the distance between cells varies. Molecules may travel to the next cell or they may need to travel to another tissue structure altogether. The distance that a signalling molecule travels in cell communication is used to classify these molecules into three distinct groups. You will learn about those groups in this course.



  • A starter course for research or lab assistants
  • Professional development for anyone who works with living things - from horticulturists, agriculturists and health workers to conservation, forestry and veterinary industry staff
  • Anyone with a passion for biology



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