Types Of Cells
Multicellular organisms contain a vast array of highly specialized cells. Plants contain root cells, leaf cells, and stem cells. Humans have skin cells, nerve cells, and sex cells. Each kind of cell is structured to perform a highly specialized function. Often, examining a cell's structure reveals much about its function in the organism. For instance, as we have already seen, epithelial cells in the small intestine are specialized for absorption due to the numerous microvilli that crowd their surfaces. Nerve cells, or neurons, are another kind of specialized cell whose form reflects function. Nerve cells consist of a cell body and long processes, called axons, that conduct nerve impulses. Dendrites are shorter processes that receive nerve impulses.
Sensory cells—the cells that detect sensory information from the outside environment and transmit this information to the brain—often have unusual shapes and structures that contribute to their function. The rod cells in the retina of the eye, for instance, look like no other cell in the human body. Shaped like a rod, these cells have a light-sensitive region that contains numerous membranous disks. Within each disk is embedded a special light-sensitive pigment that captures light. When the pigment receives light from the outside environment, nerve cells in the eye are triggered to send a nerve impulse in the brain. In this way, humans are able to detect light.
Cells, however, can also exist as single-celled organisms. The organisms called protists, for instance, are single-celled organisms. Examples of protists include the microscopic organism called Paramecium and the single-celled alga called Chlamydomonas.
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