Cell Differentiation

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The cell is the structural and functional unit of living organisms. In Latin, cell means ‘small room’. Cells are known as building blocks of life. In an organism, if a single cell is present then it is called prokaryotic and if it contains multiple cells it is called eukaryotic.

These cells undergo different kinds of processes. Most of the cells arise from a single cell called a zygote. This single cell can differentiate into multiple cells during development.

Let us define cell differentiation, significance and its examples.

What is Cell Differentiation?

Cell differentiation is the process in which cells are differentiated to change the functional type from one entity to another.

In multicellular organisms, cell differentiation is influenced by different factors, such as environmental conditions, cell signalling, and the level of development. The fundamental differentiation takes place during the formation of the zygote when the sperm cell is fertilized with an egg. At this stage, the cells which require differentiation are transferred by the zygote to perform specific functions.

The Primary Factors that Influence Cell Differentiation are:

  • Structure of the gene: Every gene has instructions which help to determine the cell type and the physical characteristics of the host. So in case if any mistake is found here it will result in variation of the cell differentiation.

  • Environmental factors: The change in temperature, the supply of oxygen and other factors affects the working of the hormones. Hence the impact on these molecules will affect cell differentiation and the development process will get affected.

The Instances Which Lead to Cell Differentiation:

  • Immature single cell growing as an adult.

  • Instead of substituting the damaged special cells, these cells undergo repair.

  • Influence of the cytoplasm.

  • Hormones

  • Interactions that take place in between the cells.

Cell Differentiation Examples

Cell differentiation is found in both plants and animals, hence the examples with respect to each other are as follows:

  1. Examples in Case of Plants: 

  • While we compare the eggs in an animal to seeds in a plant, the seed nourishes the zygote in the same manner as that of the egg. Cell division occurs to divide the zygote to form an embryo. This embryo develops into a meristem.

  • Meristem is different on the surface where it creates both outward and inward cells. The inward cells undergo differentiation that is similar to that of the roots which produce vascular tissues and outward cells differentiate to form leaves and stems.

  1. Examples in Case of Animals: 

  • A zygote is produced by the process of fertilization. The produced zygote can be further differentiated into different types of cells.

Significance of Cell Differentiation

  • It plays a significant role in the development of the embryo and in the complex organisms as it causes changes in size, shape and metabolism of the cells.

  • Helps to replace the old and the damaged cell pairs. 

  • Preserves the genetic material: During the process of transcription, there are more chances of DNA getting mutated, cell differentiation helps to prevent the DNA from getting damaged.

  • Medical importance: Cell differentiation influenced scientists’ development of stem cell research. Scientists are researching this to implement the process for the purpose of regeneration and repair of damaged cells.

Difference Between Cell Differentiation and Cell Division

Even though the terms sound same the outcome in both the cases vary,

Cell Differentiation

Cell Division

The process of converting one cell type into another cell type is called cell differentiation.

The process of parent cells producing new daughter cells is called cell division.

Produces different cell types.

Produces gametes and new daughter cells.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Meant By the Process of Differentiation and its Advantage?

Ans: Cell differentiation is a process in which the cell changes from one entity to another. 

The advantages are as follows:

As the cells undergo differentiation to have specified cells for the particular function,

  • Nerve cells are derived for the communication between the cells.

  • Blood cells are specialised to carry oxygen.

2. What are the Errors of Cell Differentiation?

Ans: The errors are divided into three types:

  • Anaplasia: In the advanced stages of cancer the cells lose their specialised features.

  • Dysplasia: Due to distress the cell arrangement is altered during the regular growth pattern. 

  • Metaplasia: In this type of error one cell type is converted into the other. It occurs due to the chronic damage in the tissue succeeded by regeneration.