Guardians of the (cellular) Galaxy

Saturday 8th April 2023

Every one of your trillions of cells sport a ridiculously small, yet highly complex cell membrane that acts as the guardian of the cell.

Building models of the cell membrane (IB Biology)
Building models of the cell membrane (IB Biology)

Measuring in at just 6 nanometers (nm, 1000th of a micrometer!!) across, the cell membrane expertly controls the entry and exit of molecules into the cell. Without it our cells would be like ancient cities without walls, waiting helplessly to be invaded and destroyed. The complexity of the membrane cannot be underestimated as it hosts numerous channels, selective opening and closing transmembrane proteins and glyco-proteins (like cell-to-cell communicating antennae). Add to that 'good' cholesterol for structural and fluidity regulation, you have an amazingly designed piece of biological machinery ensuring your cells are safe.

Will Bary wins the movie voucher for the most innovative (and 3-D) model of a cell membrane... — Image by: Craig Preston

Will Bary, one of our Year 1 IB students, managed to build an innovative 3-D model of this complex structure (pictured above), as the class grappled to understand a structure whose size makes a millimetre seem like the length of Canterbury's Raikaia River Bridge! 

Whilst the significance of studying cell membranes might elude most people, suffice to say that many life-saving antibiotics target the cell membranes of invading bacteria, leaving them unable to develop properly and cause us the harm they could if antibiotics did not exist. 

* The College IBDP programme has been running for over 20 years and prepares students for entry into international (and local) universities. A strength of the programme is that it encourages not only engagement with STEM subjects (sciences, technology, math and engineering) but also requires students to study a language and other subjects in the Arts. Additionally students are required to engage in community service, and think critically around life topics like ethics in Theory of Knowledge classes. For more information on this incredible College offering, contact Mr Brendan Porter, Course Co-ordinator and Assistant Principal in charge of Curriculum Development at