| Is a cell wall alive?|
|Question Date: 2016-04-21|
If you took a cell wall and put it in a
container with food and water, it would never
reproduce or do any of the functions associated
with life. A cell wall is basically a hard
sugary coating on the outside of plant,
bacterial, and some fungal cells. Its function
is primarily to maintain the shape of the cell and
protect it from various kinds of damage.
The key principle is that the smallest unit of
life is the cell. Therefore, tissues are living
because they are made of cells and organs are
living because they are made of tissues.
But anything that makes up a cell necessarily
has to not be alive. So all of the organelles
in a cell like the nucleus, mitochondria, and
endoplasmic reticulum are all non-living. It’s
only when all of the parts of a cell come together
to make a cell that you have a functional living
No, the cell itself is alive, but the wall is
made out of stuff like cellulose. Have you
ever just chewed and chewed on celery and can
break it down? That’s cellulose.
Thanks for asking,
Technically a cell wall is not alive.
Biologists generally agree that for something
to be considered “alive” it must 1) independantly
reproduce 2) use energy and produce waste 3)
grow. The cell wall is just one component of
the cell that together produce the plant. The
plant is alive but not the cell wall.
Unfortunately, the cell wall is dead. Cell walls
are only found in the plant cells. They are
made out of a non-living cellulose so that we
say the cell wall is dead.
Life is a chemical reaction, and cell walls
are generally less involved in a cell's chemical
reactions than the rest of the cell, but they
do serve functions, can be metabolized, and
otherwise perform biological functions. In
general, English language definitions of what
constitutes living versus non-living matter tends
to break down below the cellular level.
No, the cell wall isn't alive without the cell
That's what's amazing about life - it's made of
all these not-living parts that come together to
make something living. I study the question of
how that happened on the early earth, and I
think it might have happened in the spaces
between sheets of mica, the shiny mineral that
you can peel apart into thin sheets.
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