Discussion of all aspects of cellular structure, physiology and communication.
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That depends on the context: e.g. muscle cells are specialised to contract, neurons to transmit signals fast and far, adipocytes are specialised to store fat and so forth.
Then again, it can be a synonym for the term "differentiated", which means the cells have "matured" from their progenitor cells. For example, there are haematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow, which are not yet differentiated (=specialised) into any distinct type of cell, but when they divide and mature they become specialised blood cells, such as erythrocytes or granulocytes depending on the type of progenitor. These blood cells are then specialised to carry oxygen/CO2 or to destroy pathogens, respectively, and are considered to be differentiated cells.
I was under the impression that differentiation and specialisation are actually different states. For example a cell that is specialised is one which has acquired its fate, but application of novel determinants can cause the cell fate to be switched. While a differentiated cell is one which has acquired its fate and cannot be changed.
MikeJ, I meant that the terms are often mixed together. I thought 'differentiated' is the official term, but the word 'specialised' is used to describe the cells' specific function. For example, a neuron is a differentiated cell and it is specialised in signalling. This is at least how I've often seen/heard the words used in my lab and by my colleagues. But of course if 'specialised' is also a proper term for a state of cell, then I guess I mixed the terms up as well.
I agree with your definition with differentiated cells (that's what I tried to say with my blood stem cell example), but could you give me an example of what you mean by specialised cells? But yeah, the chapter you quoted isn't quite what I tried to say, so thanks for pointing it out.
Last edited by biohazard on Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
I have definitely heard the two terms used interchangebly, though that does not mean it is correct. Sometimes scientists don't care that much about what stuff is called.
"As a biologist, I firmly believe that when you're dead, you're dead. Except for what you live behind in history. That's the only afterlife" - J. Craig Venter
6 posts • Page 1 of 1
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