The Cell: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199578757

Terence Allen; Graham J. Cowling
160 Pages
103 x 167 mm
Pub date
Sep 2011
Very Short Introductions


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  • Explains the life-cycle of the cell from division to death, outlining why and how this happens
  • From bacteria to mammals the authors discuss the structure, functions, varieties, and evolution of all cells
  • Looks at how similar the architectural structures of cellular organization is across the entire plant and animal kingdoms throughout the living world

All living things on Earth are composed of cells. A cell is the simplest unit of a self-contained living organism, and the vast majority of life on Earth consists of single-celled microbes, mostly bacteria. These consist of a simple 'prokaryotic' cell, with no nucleus. The bodies of more complex plants and animals consist of billions of 'eukaryotic' cells, of varying kinds, adapted to fill different roles - red blood cells, muscle cells, branched neurons. Each cell is an astonishingly complex chemical factory, the activities of which we have only begun to unravel in the past fifty years or so through modern techniques of microscopy, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

In this Very Short Introduction, Terence Allen and Graham Cowling describe the nature of cells - their basic structure, their varying forms, their division, their differentiation from initially highly flexible stem cells, their signalling, and programmed death. Cells are the basic constituent of life, and understanding cells and how they work is central to all biology and medicine.


1: Recognising the cell
2: The structure of the cell
3: Cell division, differentiation, and death
4: Special cells for special jobs
5: Stem cells
6: Ethics, politics, and regulation
7: Celluar therapy
8: The future is now

About the author: 

Professor Terence Allen's career spanned 40 years research in Cell Structure and Function at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, Christie Hospital Manchester, and the University of Manchester. His special research interests included the mechanisms controlling cell shape, cell replacement in blood skin and gut tissues, and the structure of chromosomes. He has published in excess of 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals and is a member of the British Society for Cell Biology, the Biochemical Society and the Royal Microscopial Society.; Dr Graham Cowling has been director and teacher on a Masters programme in oncology and postgraduate tutor for research students in cancer studies at the Medical School, Univeristy of Manchester, for the past ten years. He has written a number of research papers and contributed reviews and chapters to books.

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