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Living beings: a cellular factory formed by biological machines

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José Mª Valpuesta

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  1. José Mª Valpuesta

    Doctor en Ciencias Biológicas por la Universidad del País Vasco, es profesor de investigación del CSIC, en el Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, y Profesor Honorario del Departamento de Bioquímica Molecular en la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Participa en numerosos proyectos de investigación y tiene más de cien publicaciones, sin contar los numerosos artículos de divulgación y opinión. Ha sido premiado en varias ocasiones. Es presidente de la Sociedad de Microscopía de España, Socio Ordinario de la Sociedad Española de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, entre otros muchos méritos.

We could compare the cell with a factory where a multitude of processes are developed in a coordinated and sequential way. These are done by a great number of machines, normally proteins or a set of them, which are beautifully adapted to their purpose, as their energetic efficiency is very superior to anything that mankind has ever developed. These machines are normally configured in a similar way to a production line, and their products are transported through it so the final product can be exported or used for internal consume. The cellular factory, in opposition to the ones built by mankind, is flexible and adapts to the different needs, due to the external structure with which the cells are built, the cytoskeleton, that is made fundamentally by polymers of the actin and tubulin proteins, very strong and at the same time flexible materials that are used in a very dynamic way by the cells. The cellular factory also has its own power plants, the mitochondria, where the energy needed for the different processes is produced . In the cellular factory we find a quality control department with two key roles, fixing the machines broken and the destruction and recycling of those that are no longer worth keeping.