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Cells Just Want to Have Function

This parody (written by Greg Crowther) is sung to the tune of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (written by Robert Hazard and performed by Cyndi Lauper).


Context

In this song, a daughter cell becomes specialized for a specific task (i.e. exporting proteins), with a corresponding skew in her allotment of organelles (in contrast to textbook pictures of a generic cell with one of everything), to the dismay of her disapproving mother cell.


Lyrics

I’m shipping proteins near and far;
My mother says, “Why wear all that studded ER?”
Ma, I’m at work, not a debutante luncheon,
And cells, they wanna have function;
Oh, cells want a specialized function.

I'm hangin' out with my Golgi buds;
My mother says, "You're shedding like a cheap old rug!"
Exocytosis is no cause for judgin’,
And cells, they want to have function;
Oh, cells want a specialized...
That's all they really want:
Some function!
So give me mitochondria for O-2 consumption,
'Cause cells they wanna have function;
Oh, cells want a specialized function.

Some artists paint a beautiful cell
With just one copy of each organelle.
But I look different with zero compunction,
’Cause cells, they wanna have function;
Oh, cells want a specialized...
That's all they really want:
Some function!
As soon as their transcription factors get up the gumption,
Those cells, they're gonna have function;
Yeah, cells want a specialized function.


Other Files

music video (by Hilary Kemp)


Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) illustrating it with pictures, bodily poses, and/or bodily movements. The latter activity could begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.


Study Questions

(1) This song is partly about organelles. What is an organelle? What specific organelles are mentioned in the lyrics?

(2) The first verse mentions "studded ER." What is studded ER?

(3) This song also concerns cellular differentiation. What is cellular differentiation?

(4) The final verse mentions transcription factors. What are they, and how do they relate to differentiation?

(5) Based on the lyrics, what kind of cell might the singer (daughter cell) be? That is, could she be a neuron, a muscle cell, an endocrine gland cell, a bone cell, etc.? Explain your reasoning.

(6) What is a stem cell? Could the singer's "mother" be a stem cell? Why or why not?

(7) Whimsical lyrics aside, do cells really "want" to have function? Why or why not?

(8) Are these new biology lyrics consistent with the spirit of Cyndi Lauper's original song and video? Why or why not?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)