Cytoplasm is the gelatinous liquid that fills the inside of a cell. It is composed of water, salts, and various organic molecules. Some intracellular organelles, such the nucleus and mitochondria, are enclosed by membranes that separate them from the cytoplasm.
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Cytoplasm's a funny term. So what does "cyto" mean? "Cyto" means "cell", "plasm" means "stuff", so it's "cell stuff". So think about a cell as a big water balloon, and the water balloon has little pieces of fruit floating around in it. And the cytoplasm is the water in the water balloon, and it's a little bit thicker than water, but it makes up the majority of the inside of most cells. Now, inside the cell, inside that water balloon, there's a nucleus and there's other so-called organelles, like mitochondria, or lysosomes, or the endoplasmic reticulum and other unpronounceable organelles, but the cytoplasm is the ocean in which all of these organelles float.
Christopher P. Austin, M.D.
Director, NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC); Senior Advisor for Translational Research, Office of the Director
Dr. Austin's research focuses on development of reagents and technologies to translate genome sequence into functional insights. As director of the NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), part of a network of screening centers that produce chemical probes for use in biological research and drug development, Dr. Austin is spearheading a chemical genomics program that brings the power of small-molecule chemistry and informatics to the elucidation of gene function. Just as the Human Genome Project accelerated gene identification, this initiative promises to speed discoveries on gene function and lead to the development of new therapies for human disease.