Cell Membrane and Transport: Learn how transporters keep cells healthy

Cell Membrane and Transport
Time to complete course: 30 min.

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About Cell Membrane and Transport: Learn how transporters keep cells healthy Virtual Lab Simulation

This is the full-length “Cell Membrane and Transport” simulation. For shorter, more targeted versions, see the Related simulations below.

Join Dr. B.I.O. Hacker in her synthetic biology lab, where she wants to change the world! In this simulation, you will learn about the structure and function of the cell membrane, and discover why membrane transporters are vital for healthy cells and the function of organ systems. 

The synthetic biology lab

Your mission begins in the synthetic biology lab. Here you will meet Dr. Hacker, who will introduce you to the concept of selective permeability and the fluid mosaic models of the plasma membrane. Together, you will explore why cells need specialized transporter proteins to transport cargo molecules across their membranes.

Transport molecules into a virtual cell

Next, you will teleport to a virtual cell, where you will explore how different types of molecules can cross the cell membrane. While some molecules are able to diffuse across the cell membrane, most molecules require a transporter protein to enter or leave the cell. Explore the different channels, carriers, and pumps that exist in the membrane and how they ensure that only the right molecules enter under the right conditions.

Apply your knowledge

Return to the lab to test whether inserting a transporter protein in the membrane would help certain molecules to enter the cell. To do so, you will set up a fluorescence microscopy experiment to measure transport in living cells. Finally, discover how some transporter proteins do not only keep the cell healthy but also help organ systems to function. From filtration in the kidneys to the contraction of muscles during exercise, membrane transport contributes to many processes. Can you find out how?

Get Started Now

Discover the structure and function of cell membranes by launching cargo molecules at a virtual cell. Apply your learning back in the lab to improve the health of synthetic cells that the lead researcher wants to use to produce insulin.

Techniques in Lab

  • Experimental design
  • Microscopy sample preparation
  • Fluorescence Microscopy
  • Data interpretation
  • Interactive learning activities

Learning Objectives

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to…

  • Describe the plasma membrane structure using the fluid mosaic model 
  • Recognize the relative permeability of lipid bilayers to different classes of molecule
  • Compare active and passive transport of molecules
  • Identify the 3 modes of active transport and the different classes of ion channel and carrier molecules
  • Relate the expression of specific transport proteins to the cell’s role

Simulation Features

Length – 30 minutes
Accessibility mode – Available
Languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Italian

Examples of Related Standards


Life Science related 1st year onwards




1.4 Membrane transport


Unit 2: Cell Structure and Function

Screenshots of Cell Membrane and Transport: Learn how transporters keep cells healthy Virtual Lab Simulation


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