What is a Cell – Structure, Functions, And Types

What is a Cell?

What is a cell? Cells are the basic builing blocks of every living being. we are made up of trillion such cells. Let’s read more about structural and functional unit of life in detail

Discovered in the year 1665 by Robert Hooke, the discovery of a cell has an interesting story associated with it. Wanting to learn more about the microscopic world, scientist Robert Hooke started his work to improve the design of the existing compound microscope in 1665.

His microscope used three lenses and a stage light, which illuminated and enlarged the specimens. These advancements allowed Hooke to see something wondrous when he placed a piece of cork under the microscope. The cork looked as if it was made of tiny pores, which he came to call “cells” because they reminded him of the cells in a monastery.

Cell Definition: Cell is the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known organisms. They are the smallest units of life also known as building blocks of life. Just as a building is made up of bricks, so is our body made up of cells.

How many cells does human body have? The human body has trillions of cells which vary in shapes and sizes. Different groups of cells perform a variety of functions. Organisms made of more than one cell are called multicellular (multi : many; cellular : cell) organisms. Example: human body and plants. The single-celled organisms are called unicellular (uni : one; cellular : cell), example amoeba.

Tissue: Tissues are groups of cells that have a similar structure and act together to perform a specific function. So all organs are made up of tissues and tissues are made up of cells.

What do cells do? Just like different organs of our body perform different functions, like the digestive system helps in digesting food to give us energy. And like different parts of plants also perform different functions, like the roots help in the absorption of water and minerals and leaves perform photosynthesis. Much similarly a cell also has different parts or components that perform different functions.

Basic Parts or Components of a Cell:

Cell Membrane: Different components of a cell are enclosed by structures called cell membrane or plasma membrane. They give shape to a cell. A cell membrane separates cells from one another and also the cell from the surrounding medium. It is porous and allows the movement of substances or materials both inwords and outwords.

CytoplasmIt is the jelly-like substance present between the cell membrane and the nucleus. Various other components, or organelles, of cells are present in the cytoplasm. These are mitochondria, Golgi bodies, ribosomes, etc.

Nucleus: Generally spherical and located in the center of the cell, the nucleus is an important part of a cell. It is separated from the cytoplasm by a membrane called the nuclear membrane. This membrane is also porous and allows the movement of materials between the cytoplasm and the inside of the nucleus.


There is a smaller spherical body in the nucleus called the nucleolus. In addition, the nucleus contains thread-like structures called chromosomes. These carry genes and help in inheritance or transfer of characters from the parents to the offspring.

Similarities Between Animal and Plant Cell:

Both animal and plant cells have cell membrane, nucleus, nuclear membrane and cytoplasm.

Differences Between Animal and Plant Cells:

what is cell
Let us now see the additional cell organelles present in plant cell:

1. Vacuoles: Vacuoles are membrane-bound organelles that can be found in both animals and plants and their function is to handle waste products i.e. to take in waste products and also to get rid of waste products.

2. Cell Wall: In the case of plants, in addition to the cell membrane there is an outer thick layer in plants cells which is called cell wall that protects the plant cell against variations in temperature, high wind speed, atmospheric moisture etc.

3. Plastids: Plastid is a double membrane-bound organelle involved in the synthesis and storage of food, commonly found within the cells of photosynthetic plants. A plastid containing green pigment (chlorophyll) is called chloroplast whereas a plastid containing pigments apart from green pigment is called a chloroplast. A plastid that lacks pigments is called a leucoplast and it is involved mainly in food storage.

Functions of Cell

  1. Support and Structure: Cells provide structure and support to the organism.
  2. Aids in Growth through Mitosis: Multiplication/reproduction of cells occurs through the process of mitosis, in which two identical daughter cells are formed through the parent cell. In simple organisms, the reproduction of new organisms happens via mitosis.
  3. Active and passive transportation is done by cells. Various chemical processes take place inside a cell, a cell needs to get rid of such waste, also cell helps in the import of nutrients.
  4. To Produce Energy: To carry out various chemical processes, cells will require energy. In animals, the energy is produced by the cells through the process of respiration, whereas in plants the energy is produced by the cells with the help of photosynthesis.

Understanding Types Of Cell

1. Prokaryotic Cells: The cells having nuclear material without a nuclear membrane are termed prokaryotic cells. The organisms with these kinds of cells are called prokaryotes. Examples, bacteria and blue-green algae.

2. Eukaryotic cells: The cells which have well-organized nucleus with a nuclear membrane are designated as eukaryotic cells. All organisms other than bacteria and blue green algae are called eukaryotes.

Difference between Prokaryotic cells and Eukaryotic cells:


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