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Answer to the Friday Whatsit for January 14, 2011

January 17, 2011

Congratulations to Mary for guessing this week’s Whatsit. This is part of a plant in all sorts of 3D glory.


In green, you can see cell walls and a couple of sieve plates (the portions of wall with holes).

You can also clearly see the chloroplasts in red.  Chloroplasts are vital organelles for plant cells; they contain chlorophyll, a molecule that is important for photosynthesis.  Which we all remember from school is the process that allows plants to use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen.

Cool fun fact of the day: Chloroplasts and the answer to last week’s Friday Whatsit (red blood cells) contain related molecules.  Heme and chlorophyll are both based on porphyrin chemistry.  Porphyrins are complex organic molecules that bind to metal ions (iron in the case of heme and magnesium in chlorophyll).

Normally porphyrins are good things to have around, but not if you happen to have porphyria.  Porphyria is a group of eight very rare conditions that can lead to a host of medical problems, all stemming from the buildup of porphyrins or their building blocks.  King George III of England (ruler during the American Revolution) is thought to have suffered from a form of porphyria.

So there you go.  From 3D plants to European monarchs in one tidy little Whatsit.

  1. Mary Bankhead permalink

    Cool! Yay, I won something! 🙂 I like the Friday Whatsits; they’re a little bit of science mystery in my otherwise non-science week.

    • Yay! Is this the first one you have guessed first? That’s cool! I’m glad to be your weekly dose of science 🙂

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