How Does the Cell Membrane Maintain Homeostasis?

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  • 0:04 Definition of Homeostasis
  • 0:54 Purpose of the Cell Membrane
  • 1:27 Structure of the Cell Membrane
  • 2:14 Osmosis of Water…
  • 2:45 Regulation of Ion Flow
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and high school physical science, life science & biology. She's also been an assistant principal and has a doctorate in educational administration.

Maintenance of homeostasis is important to the survival of an organism. In this lesson, you will learn what mechanisms allow the cell membrane to play a major part in maintaining homeostasis for the cell and the organism.

Definition of Homeostasis

Have you ever been really hot or really cold? What about very hungry or extremely full? Are either of those conditions comfortable for you? Of course they aren't. Most organisms want to maintain conditions that are somewhere in between the extremes. This ideal set of conditions is called homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the set of internal conditions in which an organism functions at its best. Every organism is in a constant fight to maintain homeostasis, and every single cell in the organism is a part of the battle. Every organelle in each cell is working to maintain homeostasis, including the cell membrane. The question is, how does the cell membrane aid the cell, and ultimately the overall organism, in maintaining homeostasis?

Purpose of the Cell Membrane

The job of the cell membrane is to regulate the passage of materials into and out of the cell. In order for any materials to go in or out of the cell, they must cross through the cell's membrane. The membrane decides whether that material will be allowed passage based on what is considered the optimum concentration level for that material. The cell membrane most often works specifically on the concentration of water and different types of ions. The type of cell it is will determine what the ideal concentration is for a specific material.

Structure of the Cell Membrane

The cell membrane resembles an ice cream sandwich. The outer portion, or cookie layer, is made up of a double layer of molecules called phospholipids. A phospholipid is a molecule that has a head region that carries an electric charge attached to a lipid tail portion. It resembles a balloon with a string tied to it. The lipid (tail) portion repels water and keeps it either inside or outside the cell.

The cell membrane also has molecules of cholesterol dotted at different points in the phospholipid layer. The presence of the cholesterol and short lipid tails keeps the cell membrane fluid, allowing the passage of necessary materials across its layer. This one major mechanism helps the cell with the maintenance of homeostasis.

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