Why Are There Different Types of Cells?

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12626

Your life started as one cell that somehow produced the zillions of different cells that make up your skin, eyes, pancreas, and epiglottis! How that happens also brings hope to seriously ill patients!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • How does a single cell grow into an entire human being?

You are made up of many different types of cells.

That is why your eyes look different from your tongue, and why your muscle cells contract while your brain cells conduct electricity. All cells in your body start with a single cell, created when an egg and sperm cell meet.

  • So, how do you think cells end up with so many different structures and functions?

It is a process called cell specialization or differentiation.

Cell differentiation depends on genetic information stored in RNA and DNA, the genetic code for all living things. These compounds provide the instructions for every task and process that your body carries out. DNA is also the heredity information that passes genes on to offspring.

Genes found in DNA and RNA provide the guidelines for cell specialization based on environmental factors. These factors can include the time of development, temperature, and presence of chemical compounds.

Cell specialization only occurs from stem cells, the unique cells that develop during early fetal stages. These cells have the ability to differentiate into any cell in the human body, which is what makes them so interesting! You will learn more about these cells in the Got It? section.

  • Why do you think your body needs so many types of cells to function?
  • How do cells know how to form into essential organs?
  • Why don't organs get replicated?
  • How does everything come out perfect the majority of the time?

All of this highly specialized development occurs while a baby is developing in the womb. Take a moment to think about how complex fetal development is! Reflect on what you have learned by writing a one-paragraph reflection on cell differentiation in a notebook. You may use this notebook throughout the Human Body Cells series.

Continue on to the Got It? section to learn more about the amazing stem cells!

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