Cheek cells are eukaryoticcells (cells that contain a nucleus and other organelles within enclosed in amembrane) that are easily shed from the mouth lining. It"s therefore easy toobtain them for observation.

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Some of the main parts of acell include:

1. Cell membrane (outer boundary of the cell)

2. Cytoplasm (the fluid within the cell)

3. Nucleus (at the center of the cell and controls cell functions)

4. Organelles (e.g. mitochondria-Organelles are cell structures withspecific functions)

Using biological stainssuch as methylene blue, it"s possible to clearly observe and differentiate thedifferent parts of a cell. This is because the stain will color some parts ofthe cell and not others, allowing them to be clearly observed.

Requirements

Sterile cotton swabMicroscope cover slipsMethylene Blue solution (0.5% to 1%)DropperBlotting paper/Tissue paper

How to Prepare a Wet Mount of Cheek Cells

Before starting, it"salways important to ensure that the working surface is clean and that you arewearing a pair of clean gloves to avoid contamination.

Cheek cells can beeasily obtained by gently scraping the inside of the mouth using a clean,sterile cotton swab.

Once the cells have been obtained,the following procedure is used for cheek cell wet mount preparation:

place a drop of physiological saline on a clean microscopic slide(central part of the slide)smear the cotton swab on to the center (part containing the salinedrop) of the clean slide for about 4 seconds to get the cells on to the centerof the slideadd a drop of methylene blue solution on to the smear and gentlyplace a cover slip on top (to cover the stain and the cells)any excess solution can be removed by touching one side of theslide with a paper towel or blotting paper.place the slide on the microscope for observation using 4 x or 10x objective to find the cellsonce the cells have been found, they can then be viewed at highermagnificatio

 

* Note - Used cotton swabsand cotton towel should be safely discarded in the trash and not left lying onthe working table.


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cheek cells stained with methylene blue by Joseph Elsbernd at https://www.flickr.com/photos/codonaug/6936088980/in/photostream/

Why do we have to Stain the Cells?

The cell has differentparts, and those that can absorb stains or dyes are referred to as chromatic.Having absorbed the stain, these parts of the cell become more visible underthe microscope and can therefore be easily distinguished from other parts ofthe same cell.

Without stains, cells would appear to be almost transparent,making it difficult to differentiate its parts.

Methylene blue has a stringaffinity for both DNA and RNA. When it comes in contact with the two, a darkerstain is produced and can be viewed under the microscope.

The nucleus at thecentral part of the cheek cell contains DNA. When a drop of methylene blue isintroduced, the nucleus is stained, which makes it stand out and be clearlyseen under the microscope.

Although the entire cell appears light blue incolor, the nucleus at the central part of the cell is much darker, which allowsit to be identified.

Observation

On mounting the wet slide,the following will be observed:

Large irregularly shaped cells with distinct cell membranes.A distinct nucleus at the central part of each individual cell(dark blue in color).

Conclusion

This is an easy and funexperiment that will show kids the basic structure of a cell and its majorparts. For easy identification of the parts, the parent or teacher can firstshow the kids some samples of the cells in advance.This will help themidentify different parts with ease.

Once this has been achieved, kids can moveon to the next stage of learning the functions of these different parts.

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** Find prepared microscope slides and equipment to correctly perform microscope experiments.

See also: Epithelial Cells

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