What Do Cells Need to Stay Alive?

Oxygen, water, glucose, fats, minerals and amino acids are needed for continual cell survival. Oxygen and glucose are necessary for cellular respiration. The two participate in a glycolysis reaction producing ATP, the source of energy utilized by all cells.

Animal cells source the glucose needed for this essential reaction from complex organic molecules, such as sugars and proteins. These organic compounds contain energy in the bonds between their individual atoms. As the bonds are broken down, energy is released and harvested by the cell. Plant cells photosynthesize the glucose together themselves from water and carbon dioxide in the presence of solar radiation.

Essential amino acids are necessary for cells to synthesize and repair its components, produce proteins and release hormones. There are 20 essential amino acids in total. Combined in different ways, these 20 amino acids make up the bulk of all living matter. Cells also need water as a medium for the biochemical reactions necessary for life to take place. They need fats to produce the fatty cell membranes that protect the cell from outside invasion and define the boundary of the cell. They also need minerals to form enzymes. Enzyme molecules usually contain a central metal atom or complex of metal atoms. Without enzymes, many biological reactions would not take place.