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Homeostasis

The body of an organism may contain many millions of cells, all working at the same time. All of these cells need to operate under fairly stable biological conditions if they are to function efficiently. The correct concentrations of salts, water, pH, temperature and glucose are particularly important in maintaining proper cell function. Homeostasis is the process of regulating and maintaining the internal environment of the cell. There are a number of reasons why homeostasis is very important to living organisms. Solutes, pH and temperature all affect enzyme activity and all biochemical reactions in the cell are controlled by enzymes.

Enzymes can be denatured by high temperatures or cease to function at low temperatures. If internal temperature can be maintained at a constant level it allows the organism some independence from the fluctuations in external temperatures and allows mammals to exploit a wider range of habitats. Similarly extreme changes in pH can cause enzymes to denature. Cells also need to maintain constant water potential, both inside the cell and in the surrounding fluid, to avoid osmotic problems such as dehydration, swelling or even bursting.

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