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ZingPath: Cell Structure

The Surface Area-to-Volume Ratio of Cells

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Cell Structure

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Lesson Focus

The Surface Area-to-Volume Ratio of Cells


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You will get to learn interesting new details about the parts of a cell and their functions. Help develop the cell theory and discover how to detect different cell components using staining techniques in a virtual microscopy laboratory.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Define surface area-to-volume ratio.
  • Explain why surface area-to-volume ratio is important for a cell.

Everything You'll Have Covered

What is the cell membrane's primary function?

~ The cell membrane is the structure responsible for the living cell's relationship with its environment. The cell membrane transports food and oxygen inside the cell by diffusion and discharges the metabolic wastes outside the cell.

What is the relationship between surface area of the cell membrane and the diffusion rate?

~ The surface area of the cell membrane is directly related to diffusion rate. As the cell gets larger, it needs more nutrients and oxygen. However, surface area increases more slowly than the volume of the cell, and over time the rate of diffusion will not be able to meet the cell's needs.

What is the relationship between DNA and cell size? How does this relationship affect a cell's life?

~ The amount of DNA is directly related to the size of the cell. During protein synthesis, the production of protein from DNA takes a certain amount of time. When there is an insufficient amount of time, it creates a problem causing the cell, which has an inadequate amount of DNA, to be unable to sustain life.

What factors limit cell size? What happens to cells that exceed the size limit?

~ Diffusion rate and the amount of DNA limit the size of most cells to 200 Ám. Cells that grow larger than this divide and form new cells.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 2 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be able to define the following terms: biology, cell, and cell membrane.
Course Biology
Type of Tutorial Animation
Key Vocabulary biology, cell, cell membrane