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Specialized Cells | Definition, Types & Examples - Lesson

Specialized Cells | Definition, Types & Examples - Lesson

According to research in cell biology, cell biology is a discipline of biological science that consists of the structure, physiology, growth, reproduction, and death of cells. Specialized cells are those with unique structures and functions in the body.This blog will discuss specialized cells, their definitions, and types, such as female reproductive cells, muscle cells, nerve cells, red blood cells, sperm cells, and many more.

What Are Specialized Cells?

Cells make up all living things, and they are the basic unit of our life. The specialized cell has its unique structure, which helps to carry out its function in the body. It is a multicellular organism. Specialized cells support homeostasis, which means they carry out different functions and work together to support balance in the system. All the cells start from the stem. However, what makes specialized cells different is that they have different genes, which are turned on and off through gene regulation. This process creates different proteins, which form the structure and function of the cell.

List of Specialized Cells

Here is the list of new specialized cells and how specialized cells work for specialized plants, the nervous system, and form organs

Specialized Animal Cells

According to a BBC study, specialized animal cells consist of red blood cells, sperm, eggs, nerve cells, muscle cells, ciliated cells, and villi. All these components have special structures that help to complete a specific function. Here are a few examples and key terms with different functions of cells:

Key Term: Egg Cell

The egg cell, also known as the ovum, is a female sex cell made in the ovaries before birth. Typically, one egg cell is released every month during the menstrual cycle, but sometimes, exceptional things happen, and the numbers get higher. Egg cells join with a sperm cell or male reproductive cell during fertilization. This creates an embryo, which in turn creates a new life.

Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells are found in the blood and are made in bone marrow. They contain the protein hemoglobin and help carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Red blood cells don't have a nucleus, which allows more space for oxygen to be carried.

Nerve Specialized Cells

The specified cells of nervous tissues are called neurons. These are the structural and functional units of the entire nervous system. All the typical neurons consist of nerve cells and nerve fibers. Nerve fibers are known as axons.

Key Term: Muscle Cell

The muscle cell is known as myocyte. It is the smallest subunit of muscular tissue and organs of our entire body. Muscle myocyte is different from the specialized function of contraction.

Sperm Cells

The sperm cell is the male reproductive cell. It originates from animal cells and penetrates an egg( ovum) to fertilize it. It consists of mitochondria, which ensure that the sperm cell has enough energy for its journey. Sperm cells have their own enzymes, which work as the protective covering of the egg cell.

Female Reproductive Cell

The female reproductive cell is called gametes. It is called sex cells. Gametes are haploid cells which carry only one copy of each chromosome. All these reproductive cells help to produce a type of cell division called meiosis.

Ciliated Specialized Cell

It is a specialized cell in the human body with a hair-like structure called cilia on its surface. This cell is found in various organs and tissues in animal cells. The ciliated specialized cell helps to move mucus, fluids, or other particles. It works as the sensory cell in our nose and ears, which helps us get signals from our brains. This tiny cell helps in the female reproductive system.

Muscle Specialized Cells

Muscle-specialized cells are those cells that help to create muscle tissue in our body. Three major muscle tissues are there with their specialized cells. Here are the examples of specialized cells:

Understanding Muscle-Specialized Cells

Let's understand the function of muscle-specialized cells and their specific functions:

  1. Cardiac Muscle Cells are known as cardiomyocytes. These are the branched cells with a single nucleus. It looks like a skeletal muscle cell. This cell is found in the heart. Cardiac muscle cell works for pumping blood cells throughout the body. It allows the heart to beat and circular the blood cells to all parts of the animal body.
  2. Smooth Muscle Cells are shaped like spindles and have a single nucleus. They are found in the walls of hollow organs.
  3. Skeletal Muscle Cells are long and cylindrical cells known as fibers. All the skeletal muscles are connected with bones via tendons. These cells help in running, walking, or lifting some objects.

Other Cells

We have already discussed sperm cells, egg cells, blood cells, and blood vessels along with nervous tissue. Let's check other cells:

  • Cilia: 

The cilia is a small cell with a major function in locomotion. The cell cycle needs to develop in our body. Two different types of cilia are there-

  1. Motile cilia
  2. Non-motile cilia.
  • Villi: 

The villi is the small intestine, which is the longest part of the digestive system. Villi has three components:

  1. Duodenum,
  2. Ileum,
  3. Jejunum.

What are some examples of cell specialization?

There are three types of cell specialization which are:

  • Blood Cells: These include red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells, also known as RBCs, transport oxygen throughout the human body. It takes the carbon dioxide to our lungs to exhale from our body. White blood cells, or WBCs, form the body’s immune system and fight diseases and infections.  Platelets prevent and stop bleeding. 
  • Skin Cells: The major task of skin cells is to protect the skin barrier against mechanical, thermal, and physical injury and hazardous substances. It is a sensory organ that protects our skin from UV rays and moisture loss.
  • Muscle Cells: Muscle cells work proactively to perform movements. These cells make muscle tissue in the human body. There are three types of muscle cells: Cardiac, smooth, and skeletal. 

What is Cell Differentiation?

According to the National Cancer Institute, cell differentiation is the process through which immature, young cells (unspecialized) acquire unique properties. It helps to develop into mature, specialized cells with specific forms and functions. It is an important process whereby a single cell gradually develops various tissues and organs. It helps in the development of an organism from a single-cell zygote.

The Roles of DNA and RNA in Cell Differentiation

DNA and RNA are both crucial factors in cell differentiation. Through the process of cell differentiation, cells become specialized for specific functions in the body.

  • DNA is the genetic blueprint. It determines what type of specialized cell will be made. Stem cells possess the ability to become any type of specialized cell in the body. Egg cells and sperm cells get united to form a new organism.
  • RNA is a messenger that helps to transcribe DNA instructions. It carries ribosomes by synthesizing protein through translation.

In this way, both DNA and RNA work in cell differentiation.

Environmental Elements Have an Impact Expression of Genes

Environmental elements have an impact on the expression of genes through the process of epigenetics. It refers to the gene expressions. All these do not involve the underlying DNA sequence. Let's check some ways that reflect gene expressions:

  • DNA methylation
  • Histone modification
  • Non-coding RNAs
  • Chromatin remodeling

Lifestyle factors lead to changes in phenotype. These factors have the potential to impact life processes and susceptibility.

Recall of Adaptations to the Genetic Material in Sperm Cells and the Egg-Specialized Cell

The sperm and egg cells are known as gametes. Gametes undergo specialized adaptations to fulfill the role of sexual reproduction.

The egg cell is considered the largest cell in an organism. At the same time, the sperm cell is considered the smallest cell in the organism. Both of the cells are optimized in opposite directions because of the propagation of genes they carry. Egg provides maternal genes by supporting them with large stocks of raw materials for development growth. Sperm is considered as the parental gene. It exploits maternal investments. Sperm helps in fertilization. A huge amount of sperm fails to fertilize an egg. But it is highly adapted for delivering their DNA to an egg.

Recalling the Cells Adapted to Allow Rapid Responses in the Body

There are two types of helping our body that help to respond quickly:

Muscle Cells:

  • Muscle cells are the movers of the human body. They help you run, move, eat, sleep, jump, or do whatever you do in everyday life.
  • The muscle cell looks like a small spring.
  • Muscle cells get signals from nerve cells. Then, they go to move muscle tissue.

Nerve Cells:

  • Nerve cells are called neurons. They are the messengers in our bodies. Neurons help us receive and send responses to what is happening around us.
  • A nerve cell consists of axons, which are long, skinny parts that carry messages and signals in a highly specialized way.
  • Synapses are the small part of axons. It helps to transfer signals from one nerve to another nerve at a high speed.


Specialized cells are involved in the specific functions of red blood cells, muscle cells, and nerve cells. They are different from stem cells because stem cells can develop different types of cells differently. We hope this blog has made it easier for you to understand the 101 of cell specialization. 

For more details, check out our website. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do specialized cells differ from stem cells? heading0

Stem cells are different from other cells in the body. They are unspecialized and capable of dividing and self-renewing continually. In contrast, specialized cells have a unique structure that helps them function in the body.

Can specialized cells change their roles or functions? heading1

Some ribosomes read the generic codes in the mRNA and create protein. All these proteins will convert into the function of the cell and support it to differentiate.

How do specialized cells contribute to tissue regeneration and repair? heading2

Specialized cells develop into specific cell types required to replace lost or damaged cells, which aids in tissue regeneration and repair.

What are examples of specialized cells in the human body? heading3

Here are examples of specialized cells in the human body: muscle cells, nerve cells, red blood cells, sperm cells, multicellular organisms cells, and more. There are other specialized cells, too, like cardiomyocytes, neurons, osteocytes, erythrocytes, leukocytes, and oocytes

Can specialized cells be used in medical treatments or therapies? heading4

Indeed, the use of specialized cells in medical therapies and treatments is important. For instance, the potential of stem cells to repair damaged organs and tissues in diseases including diabetes, spinal cord injury, and heart disease is being studied.

How can one support the health of specialized cells? heading5

Maintaining particular nutrients and environmental circumstances that support the general health of living organisms is necessary to support the health of specialized cells. The particular structure includes things like proper nutrition, water, exercise, detoxification, stress reduction, and enough sleep.

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