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How does a cell maintain homeostasis?

Updated March 23, 2017

In order to function properly and stay alive, cells must maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state in which everything within the cell is in equilibrium and functioning properly. The state of homeostasis keeps the cell constant with what it needs to function. This means that in homeostasis, the waste is being transported away from the cell while it receives the nutrients it needs to continue to function. Homeostasis keeps the cell stable. When cells are in homeostasis, they work to help the organism function properly. It is important for cells to maintain homeostasis for the organism to remain healthy. Different parts of the cell work to constantly maintain homeostasis in the cell.

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What part of the cell works to maintain homeostasis?

The main part of the cell that works to maintain homeostasis is the cell membrane. That's the outer wall between the cell and the outside world. Essentially, it's what protects the cell from outside stimuli that could disrupt a cell's homeostasis. The cell membrane acts as the gatekeeper to what goes into and leaves the cell. It is made up of mostly fats (lipids) and protein and is selectively permeable, meaning it only lets certain molecules pass through the membrane.

When there is too much of a certain molecule inside the cell, the cell membrane allows some of the molecules to permeate the membrane and leave the cell. Conversely, when there is too much of a molecule outside the cell and not enough inside the cell, the cell membrane will allow enough of the molecule to permeate to maintain homeostasis.

Charged molecules and large molecules cannot pass through the cell membrane, while small and uncharged molecules can.

What are the different ways molecules permeate the cell membrane?

The cell membrane maintains homeostasis through the processes of diffusion, osmosis and filtration, which are passive forms of transport. Passive forms of transport move molecules such as water and substrates across the cell membrane with no energy on the cell's part. When there is too much of a certain molecule within the cell, the cell uses diffusion to transport some of those molecules into the environment. When there is not enough of a molecule within the cell, the cell uses diffusion to transport molecules from the environment into the cell. Diffusion takes no energy on the part of the cell. It is the movement of solutes down the concentration gradient. It takes the excess molecules from the area in which they have the highest concentration and spread them out. Osmosis is the process of allowing water to permeate the cell membrane. It is the diffusion of water molecules. Through the processes of diffusion and osmosis, the cell membrane works to maintain homeostasis in the cell by transporting molecules to create equilibrium between the inside of the cell and its environment.

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About the Author

Marissa Willman is a Palm Springs-based travel journalist and content writer. She has been writing professionally since 2007 for such publications as Viator.com, VisitPalmSprings.com and Palm Springs Life. Willman is also the local guide for the Palm Springs section of travel website 10Best.com. Willman holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from California State University, Fullerton.

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