Somatic Cell In Human Body Facts

A somatic cell is generally taken to mean any cell forming the body of an organism.

Somatic cells, by definition, are not germline cells.

In mammals, germline cells are the sperm and ova (also known as “gametes”) which fuse during fertilization to produce a cell called a zygote, from which the entire mammalian embryo develops.

Every other cell type in the mammalian body, apart from the sperm and ova, the cells from which they are made (gametocytes) and undifferentiated stem cells, is a somatic cell; internal organs skin, bones, blood and connective tissue are all made up of somatic cells.

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Tiny Building Blocks of Life

When we look at our bodies, it is apparent that we are made up of many different parts. In a very general sense, you could say that we have arms and legs, hands and feet, a head and a torso. Taking a closer look, we can get more specific and mention our internal and external organs. We have a heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and skin, not to mention many more organs.

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If we zoom in much farther, with the help of a microscope, we can see that all of these body parts are made of tiny building blocks called cells. In fact, every living creature is made of cells. In this lesson, we will learn about a category of cells called somatic cells. We will gain an understanding of which cells in the body fall into this category, and learn some specific examples.

Definition of Somatic Cells

As previously mentioned, all living creatures are made up of cells. In plants and animals, there are two major categories of cells: somatic cells, and the cells that are involved in reproduction. These reproductive cells are known as germ cells, or gametes. In humans and other animals, they are the egg and sperm cells.

All other cells in the body are somatic cells. Think of every body part you have: they are all made of somatic cells. The word somatic is derived from the Greek word, soma, meaning body. You can think of soma as an abbreviation for so many. This is because while germ cells include only egg and sperm, somatic cells encompass an enormous number of other types of cells.

Examples and Types of Somatic Cells

Within the broad umbrella of somatic cells, there are many differentiated types of cells that are specialized for specific areas of the body. You can imagine, knowing all the different parts that we have, all cells are not the same! Even their shape and size can vary greatly. These properties tend to vary depending on their function within the body.

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Let’s take a look at a specialized group of somatic cells called neurons. Neurons are nerve cells, and their function is to transmit signals from the body to the brain. The physical characteristics of neurons are unique. They have a large central area called the cell body. On either side of the cell body there are long, branched structures reaching out to receive and send the message.

It is because of these branching structures that neurons can transmit messages quickly and efficiently. They extend the length of the cell, reaching like fingers out to grab the signal and pass it on. This specialized feature allows neurons to connect our body with our brain in the most efficient way possible.

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