What Is Cell Biology?

Significant Events in Cell Biology

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Medical Research Images.

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Cell biology is the subdiscipline of biology that studies the basic unit of life, the cell. It deals with all aspects of the cell including cell anatomy, cell division (mitosis and meiosis), and cell processes including cell respiration, and cell death. Cell biology does not stand alone as a discipline but is closely related to other areas of biology such as genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry.

Key Takeaways

  • As its name implies, cell biology deals with the study of the cell, the basic unit of life.
  • There are two cell types: prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Prokaryotes do not have a defined nucleus while eukaryotes do.
  • The invention of the microscope was pivotal in scientists' ability to properly study cells.
  • A number of career paths, like a clinical researcher, a medical doctor or a pharmacologist are open to those who have studied cell biology.
  • Many important developments have taken place in cell biology. From Hooke's description of a cork cell in 1655 to induced pluripotent stem cells advances, cell biology continues to fascinate scientists.

Based on one of the basic principles of biology, the cell theory, the study of cells would not have been possible without the invention of the microscope. With the advanced microscopes of today, such as the Scanning Electron Microscope and Transmission Electron Microscope, cell biologists are able to obtain detailed images of the smallest of cell structures and organelles.

What Are Cells?

All organisms contain cells. Viaframe/Corbis/Getty Images Plus

All living organisms are composed of cells. Some organisms are comprised of cells that number in the trillions. There are two primary types of cells: eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. Eukaryotic cells have a defined nucleus, while the prokaryotic nucleus is not defined or contained within a membrane. While all organisms are composed of cells, these cells differ among organisms. Some of these differing characteristics include cell structure, size, shape, and organelle content. For example, animal cells, bacterial cells, and plant cells have similarities, but they are also noticeably different. Cells have different methods of reproduction. Some of these methods include: binary fission, mitosis, and meiosis. Cells house an organisms genetic material (DNA), which provides instructions for all cellular activity.

Why Do Cells Move?

Cell movement is necessary for a number of cell functions to occur. Some of these functions include cell division, cell shape determination, fighting off infectious agents and tissue repair. Internal cell movement is needed to transport substances into and out of a cell, as well as to move organelles during cell division.

Careers in Cell Biology

Study in the field of cell biology can lead to various career paths. Many cell biologists are research scientists who work in industrial or academic laboratories. Other opportunities include:

  • Cell Culture Specialist
  • Clinical Quality Auditor
  • Clinical Researcher
  • Food & Drug Inspector
  • Industrial Hygienist
  • Medical Doctor
  • Medical Illustrator
  • Medical Writer
  • Pathologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physiologist
  • Professor
  • Quality Control Specialist
  • Technical Writer
  • Veterinarian

Significant Events in Cell Biology

There have been several significant events throughout history that have led to the development of the field of cell biology as it exists today. Below are a few of these major events:

  • 1655 - Robert Hooke gives first description of a cork tree cell.
  • 1674 - Leeuwenhoek views protozoa.
  • 1683 - Leeuwenhoek views bacteria.
  • 1831 - Robert Brown was first to identify the nucleus as an important cell component.
  • 1838 - Schleiden and Schwann introduce what would become the Cell Theory.
  • 1857 - Kolliker describes mitochondria.
  • 1869 - Miescher isolates DNA for the first time.
  • 1882 - Kock identifies bacteria.
  • 1898 - Golgi discovers the Golgi apparatus.
  • 1931 - Ruska builds the first Transmission Electron Microscope.
  • 1953 - Watson and Crick propose structure of DNA double-helix.
  • 1965 - First commercial Scanning Electron Microscope produced.
  • 1997 - First sheep cloned.
  • 1998 - Mice cloned.
  • 2003 - Human genome DNA sequence draft completed.
  • 2006 - Adult mouse skin cells reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).
  • 2010 - Neurons, cardiac muscle, and blood cells created directly from reprogrammed adult cells.

Types of Cells

The human body has a multitude of different types of cells. These cells differ in structure and function and are suited for the roles they fulfill in the body. Examples of cells in the body include: stem cells, sex cells, blood cells, fat cells and cancer cells.

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Bailey, Regina. "What Is Cell Biology?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, thoughtco.com/cell-biology-373371. Bailey, Regina. (2021, July 29). What Is Cell Biology? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/cell-biology-373371 Bailey, Regina. "What Is Cell Biology?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/cell-biology-373371 (accessed February 6, 2023).