What are People Made of?

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What are we made of?

We are made of the same thing the whole Universe is made of: Atoms

  • The Universe is made of Atoms.
  • Atoms, are made up of a proton, a neutron and a rotating electron. The number of each will vary depending on which Element it is making up. For example this is a diagram of carbon atom

                      atom carbon

  • Protons, Neutrons and Electrons are called subatomic particles because they are smaller than an atom.
  • These are still not the smallest things in the Universe
  • The smallest thing in the Universe is called an Elementary Particle 
  • An Elementary Particle cannot be divided into anything smaller (Learn more about Elementary Particles HERE)
  • Absolutely everything in the Universe is made of Atoms
  • This is a Carbon Atom

People (and other living things) are made of Cells 

  • Scientists conclude that the average human body contains approximately 37.2 trillion cells
  • Cells, like everything else in the Universe are made of Atoms
  • Scientists estimate the average cell contains 100 trillion atoms
  • The number of atoms per human cell is only a rough estimate because cells come in different sizes.
  • There are about 500 cells in something the size of a full stop like this.

What do Cells do?

  • Cells make Proteins.
  • There are many different types of proteins.
  • Each Protein is made in the cell and then goes off to elsewhere in the body to do its specific job.
  • A protein is a substance that makes your cells the size and shape they are, and makes them work the way they should work.
  • Essentially Cells contain instructions on how to make you be YOU. And when we say you, we mean you. They know exactly how to make you different from all the other people.
  • With the exception of identical twins, (who share the same genetic make up: the same instructions) everyone is uniquely different. 

Inside a Cell?

The nucleus, in the middle of the cell and is the cells control centre (mission control - think of a better word for kids) making the cell work. 

Each cell contains of 23 pairs of chromosomes. One of the chromosomes in each pair comes from your mother and the other comes from your father. 


Chromosomes are made of threads of deoxyribonucleic acid (or DNA) which is the recipe book to make a unique YOU. Your DNA recipe book is split into genes, which are like individual recipes in a recipe book. There are about 30,000 genes (recipes) in each cell in your body.


If you unravelled the DNA in each cell it would measure approx 1.75m long & roughly 5 million DNA threads would fit through the eye of a needle. The DNA threads look like a twisted ladder (called a double helix). The DNA is made up of 4 different chemicals; adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). These chemicals sit in pairs opposite each other on the rungs of the DNA ladder. Like a line in a recipe they provide an instruction for making something. It’s the combinations of these pairs that make your DNA recipe unique?

The genetic instructions


Cell = kitchen (where the proteins are made)


Chromosome = Book Shelf with 23 shelves (pairs of chromosomes) (where all of the instructions required to make you are stored) Each chromosome has a different length of DNA – like each recipe book is of a different length, some are short and fat and some are long and thin)


DNA = recipe book (containing all the different recipes for making different parts of you, YOU). Like a recipe book the DNA is split into different sections (or recipes) these sections provide the instructions detailing how to make a particular part of you look or work.


Gene = Recipe to make a protein (see the protein as a dish such a Spaghetti Bolognese!) a protein is a substance that makes your cells the size and shape they are and makes them work the way they should work. The DNA contains thousands of recipes to make thousands of different proteins, all the ones your body needs to grow and survive. The protein is made in the cell (kitchen) and then goes off to elsewhere in the body to do its specific job.
Rung of ladder = instruction in the recipe the gene is made up of rungs in the DNA ladder with a different chemical on each end of the rung in different combinations.