What are some specialized cells

Specialized cells

Lesson plans by Oliver Smith

Cells are the building blocks of all living things. The human body contains hundreds of different types of cells, each with a different purpose. Every cell has adaptations that enable it to function effectively in living things. Once students have mastered basic cells, they should turn to specialized cells and their specific functions. The following activities are designed to help students differentiate between specialized cells using visual aids and vocabulary!

Student activities for specialized cells

Types of specialized cells

Not all cells in our body are created equal. They often share many common and similar organelles, but there are hundreds of specialized cells, all of which have adaptations that allow them to function effectively.

Fat cell

Fat cells are also known as lipocytes or adipocytes and can store energy as fat in the human body. These cells have a large reservoir of fat surrounded by a thin layer of cytoplasm. Fat cells can grow in size so they can store more fat when needed. The average adult has tens of billions of fat cells. Fat cells not only store energy, but also isolate the body to keep people warm.

Ciliated epithelial cell

Ciliated epithelial cells are found in areas where mucus is produced. These cells are columnar with tiny hair-like appendages called cilia. The eyelashes move back and forth, removing mucus and debris from the body. These cells are often found near goblet cells that produce mucus. One of the areas these cells are in is the windpipe. They can also be found in the bronchi, uterine tubes, and the digestive tract.

Nerve cell

Nerve cells are often called neurons. Their function is to carry electrical signals through the body. The human brain has roughly 100 billion neurons that are elongated and drawn out like a wire. They have many branches on each end so they can connect to a number of other cells. The nerve impulse is transmitted in the axon, which is covered with a layer of fat or a myelin sheath that isolates the axon. This insulation acts like the plastic coating on a wire and stops the electrical signals that affect other parts of the body. The gap between neurons is called the synapse. When the electrical signal reaches a synapse, chemicals known as neurotransmitters diffuse across the gap. This can then forward the signal to the next nerve cell.

Root hair cell

Root hair cells are located in the roots of the plants and take up water more efficiently for the plant. Water is a reactant that is used in photosynthesis. The chemical reaction plants use it to make their own food. Water is used as a solvent to dissolve other substances moving around the plant and is also used to increase hydrostatic pressure in other cells of the plant and keep the plant stiff. Root hair cells have thin cell walls and a long, hair-like protrusion to increase the surface area, which allows water and minerals to be absorbed efficiently.

Red blood cells

Red blood cells carry oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. They are well suited for this function because they contain hemoglobin. Hemoglobin reacts with oxygen and carbon dioxide and can thus be transported in the body. Red blood cells don't have nuclei to increase the amount of hemoglobin they can carry. The cells have a biconcave shape that increases the surface area. Due to their small size and flexibility, they can move easily all over the body.

Smooth muscle cell

Smooth muscle cells are found throughout the body and in internal organs. They differ from striated muscle cells found in skeletal muscles. Striped muscle cells are involved in voluntary movement, and smooth muscle cells are involved in involuntary movement. Just like striped cells, smooth muscle cells can contract. They are spindle-shaped and have a central, elongated core. Their shape allows them to bond well with neighboring cells.

Egg cell

The egg cells are also known as egg cells. They are produced in the ovaries and carry the mother's genetic information. Egg cells contain half the number of chromosomes compared to other cells in the body. They are one of the largest in the human body and can be seen with the naked eye. The cell not only has a haploid nucleus, but also a special membrane that allows only one sperm cell to be fertilized. The cell's cytoplasm is very large and contains a number of organelles and nutrients that help cells divide during fertilization.

Sperm cell

Sperm cells are produced in the testicles. The function of these cells is to fertilize the egg cells during reproduction. Sperm cells contain half the number of chromosomes as other cells in the body. Cells that contain half of the genetic information are called gametes. The sperm cell has a flagellum (a whip-like tail) that propels it. The middle part of the sperm cell contains a high density of mitochondria. Mitochondria are places where breathing takes place and energy is released from glucose, which allows the sperm cell to move. At the front of the sperm cell are enzymes known as acrosomes. These enzymes can break down the cell membrane of the cell and enable fertilization. The sperm cell is small and streamlined so it can move easily.

For more information on plant and animal cells, including what their different parts do, see the Plant and Animal Cell Timetables.

Basic questions for specialized cells

  1. What is a cell?
  2. How are cells adjusted?
  3. How do these adjustments make the cell more efficient?

Image mappings
  • blood in tubes • Iqbal Osman1 • License Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
  • circulatory system • adrigu • License Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
  • Feeling fat. • Caitlinator • License Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
For more lesson plans and activities like these, check out our Science category!

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