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Cell biology

  (Redirected from Cytology)

Cell biology (also called cytology, from the Greek κύτος, kytos, "vessel") is a branch of biology that studies the structure and function of the cell, which is the basic unit of life.[1] Cell biology is concerned with the physiological properties, metabolic processes, signaling pathways, cell cycle, chemical composition, and interactions of the cell with its environment. Cell biology includes the study of eukaryotic cells and prokaryotic cells and this is carried out on a microscopic and molecular level.

Knowing the components of cells and how cells work is fundamental to all biological sciences; it is also essential for research in all bio-medical fields including cancer. Research in cell biology is closely related to genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology, and cytochemistry. [2]


Cells, which were once invisible to the naked eye, were first seen in 17th century Europe with the invention of the compound microscope. Robert Hooke was the first person to term the building block of all living organisms as "cells" after looking at the structure of cork.[3] The cell theory states that all living things are made up of cells.[4] The theory also states that both plants and animals are composed of cells which was confirmed by plant scientist, Matthias Schleiden and animal scientist, Theodor Schwann in 1839.[4] 19 years later, Rudolf Virchow contributed to the cell theory, arguing that all cells come from the division of preexisting cells.[4] In recent years, there have been many studies which question the cell theory. Scientists have struggled to decide whether viruses are alive or not. Viruses lack common characteristics of a living cell, such as membranes, cell organelles, and the ability to reproduce by themselves.[5] Viruses range from 0.005 to 0.03 micrometers in size whereas bacteria range from 1-5 micrometers.[6] Modern-day cell biology research looks at different ways to culture and manipulate cells outside of a living body to further research in human anatomy and physiology, and to derive treatments and other medications. The techniques by which cells are studied have evolved. Advancement in microscopic techniques and technology such as fluorescence microscopy, phase-contrast microscopy, dark field microscopy, confocal microscopy, cytometry, transmission electron microscopy, have allowed a better understanding of the structure of cells.[7]

Cell structureEdit

There are two fundamental classifications of cells: prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The defining difference between the two is the presence or absence of a nucleus, and other organelles. Other factors such as size, how they reproduce, and the number of cells distinguish them from one another.[8] All eukaryotes (animals, plants, fungi, and protozoans) have a cell nucleus enclosed by a membrane.[9] Prokaryotes (bacteria, and archaea) lack a nucleus. Prokaryotic cells are much smaller than eukaryotic cells, making prokaryotic cells the smallest form of life.[10] Cytologists typically focus on eukaryotic cells whereas prokaryotic cells are the focus of microbiologists, but this is not always the case.

Cellular structuresEdit

The generalized structure and molecular components of a cell

Chemical and molecular environmentEdit

The study of the cell is done on a molecular level; however, most of the processes within the cell are made up of a mixture of small organic molecules, inorganic ions, hormones, and water. Approximately 75-85% of the cell's volume is due to water making it an indispensable solvent as a result of its polarity and structure.[11] These molecules within the cell, which operate as substrates, provide a suitable environment for the cell to carry out metabolic reactions and signaling. The cell shape varies among the different types of organisms, and are thus then classified into two categories: eukaryotes and prokaryotes. In the case of eukaryotic cells - which are made up of animal, plant, fungi, and protozoa cells - the shapes are generally round and spherical or oval[9] while for prokaryotic cells – which are composed of bacteria and archaea - the shapes include: spherical (cocci), rods (bacillus), curved (vibrio), and spiral.[12]

Cell biology focuses more on the study of eukaryotic cells, and their signaling pathways, rather than on prokaryotes which is covered under microbiology. The main constituents of the general molecular composition of the cell include proteins and lipids which are either free-flowing or membrane-bound, along with different internal compartments known as organelles. This environment of the cell is made up of hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions which allows for the exchange of the above-mentioned molecules and ions. The hydrophilic regions of the cell are mainly on the inside and outside of the cell, while the hydrophobic regions are within the phospholipid bilayer of the cell membrane. The cell membrane consists of lipids and proteins which accounts for its hydrophobicity as a result of being non-polar substances.[11] Therefore, in order for these molecules to participate in reactions within the cell, they need to be able to cross this membrane layer to get into the cell. They accomplish this process of gaining access to the cell via osmotic pressure, diffusion, concentration gradients, and membrane channels [13]. Inside of the cell are extensive internal sub-cellular membrane-bounded compartments called organelles.


Cells contain specialized sub-cellular compartments called organelles that include the cell membrane, mitochondria, Golgi bodies and lysosomes.


Growth and developmentEdit

The growth process of the cell does not refer to the size of the cell, but the density of the number of cells present in the organism at a given time. Cell growth pertains to the increase in the number of cells present in an organism as it grows and develops; as the organism gets larger so does the number of cells present. Cells are the foundation of all organisms, they are the fundamental unit of life. The growth and development of the cell are essential for the maintenance of the host, and survival of the organisms. For this process, the cell goes through the steps of the cell cycle and development which involves cell growth, DNA replication, cell division, regeneration, and cell death. The cell cycle is divided into four distinct phases: G1, S, G2, and M. The G phase – which is the cell growth phase – makes up approximately 95% of the cycle.[14] The proliferation of cells is instigated by progenitors; the cells then differentiate to become,[clarification needed] where cells of the same type aggregate to form tissues, then organs, and ultimately systems.[11] The G phases along with the S phase – DNA replication, damage and repair – are considered to be the inter-phase portion of the cycle, while the M phase (mitosis and )[clarification needed] is the cell division portion of the cycle.[14] The cell cycle is regulated by a series of signaling factors and complexes such as cyclin-dependent kinase and p53, to name a few. When the cell has completed its growth process, and if it is found to be damaged or altered, it undergoes cell death, either by apoptosis or necrosis, to eliminate the threat it can cause to the organism's survival.

Other cellular processesEdit


The scientific branch that studies and diagnoses diseases on the cellular level is called cytopathology. Cytopathology is generally used on samples of free cells or tissue fragments, in contrast to the pathology branch of histopathology, which studies whole tissues. Cytopathology is commonly used to investigate diseases involving a wide range of body sites, often to aid in the diagnosis of cancer but also in the diagnosis of some infectious diseases and other inflammatory conditions. For example, a common application of cytopathology is the Pap smear, a screening test used to detect cervical cancer, and precancerous cervical lesions that may lead to cervical cancer.

Notable cell biologistsEdit

See alsoEdit


  • Penner-Hahn, James E. (2013). "Chapter 2. Technologies for Detecting Metals in Single Cells. Section 4. Intrinsic X-Ray Fluorescence". In Bani, Lucia (ed.). Metallomics and the Cell. Metal Ions in Life Sciences. 12. Springer. pp. 15–40. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5561-1_2. ISBN 978-94-007-5560-4. PMID 23595669.electronic-book ISBN 978-94-007-5561-1 ISSN 1559-0836electronic-ISSN 1868-0402
  1. ^ "Cell Biology | Learn Science at Scitable". Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  2. ^ Alberts, Bruce; Johnson, Alexander; Lewis, Julian; Raff, Martin; Roberts, Keith; Walter, Peter. Isolating, Cloning, and Sequencing DNA. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  3. ^ Hooke, Robert (September 1665). Micrographia.
  4. ^ a b c Gupta, P. (1 December 2005). Cell and Molecular Biology. Rastogi Publications. p. 11. ISBN 978-8171338177.
  5. ^ Kendrick, Karolyn (1 January 2010). Chemistry in Medicine. Benchmark Education Company. p. 26. ISBN 978-1450928526.
  6. ^ Cullimore, D. (17 December 2007). Practical Manual of Groundwater Microbiology (2nd ed.). CRC Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0849385315.
  7. ^ Lavanya, P. (1 December 2005). Cell and Molecular Biology. Rastogi Publications. p. 11. ISBN 978-8171338177.
  8. ^ Doble, Mukesh; Gummadi, Sathyanarayana N. (5 August 2010). Biochemical Engineering. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India Pvt.Ltd. ISBN 978-8120330528.
  9. ^ a b "The Morphology of Eukaryotic Cells: Shape, Number and Size". The Next Generation Library. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  10. ^ Kaneshiro, Edna (2 May 2001). Cell Physiology Sourcebook: A Molecular Approach (3rd ed.). Academic Press. ISBN 978-0123877383.
  11. ^ a b c Lodish, Harvey (2013). Molecular Cell Biology. W. H. Freeman and Company. ISBN 978-1-4292-3413-9.
  12. ^ "The Size, Shape, And Arrangement of Bacterial Cells". Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  13. ^ Cooper, Geoffrey M. (2000). "Transport of Small Molecules". The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 2nd edition.
  14. ^ a b Hardin, Jeff (2012). Becker's World of the Cell. ISBN 978-0-321-71602-6.

External linksEdit