Cell differentiation is a condition where cells start out as one type and then make a change to become a completely different cell. Cells are “morphing” from one type to another.
This is an identity change to gives your cells the ability to be more specialized in the jobs that they do.
Cells in complex multicellular organisms have developed this kind of change process for protection as well as survival.
Cell differentiation happens during many times of an organism’s life, from early on all the way to adulthood.
Stem cells are very unique cells that have the ability to change and renew themselves and they are found throughout the body.
The process of renewing itself is in being able to duplicate an identical copy by creating “daughter” cells.
Stem cells live in an area known as the “stem niche,” and when the time comes that it needs to change itself it receives a signal from the environment that it lives in with instructions on the type of cell that it needs to become or whether it just needs to remain the same and duplicate itself.
Once the stem cell receives the signal it can morph into another type of cell that will help to support organs in the body. In the case of stem cells that are found in bone marrow, they change to the kind of cells that your body needs to make blood.
Another name for animal stem cells is “pluripotent”. In higher plant species, stem cells are also called “meristematic cells.” Stem cells that can differentiate into all types of cells are called “totipotent.”
Cell differentiation changes just about everything from the original stem cell to become the new cell type. The cell will change shape, size, metabolic activity, and even its ability to respond to signals.
In almost all cases, the only thing that doesn’t change is the DNA sequence, however, the change does some of the genes on or off.
This makes the stem cell very unusual because the new cells make look and act completely differently and yet they have the same genome.
Every cell in the body of an organism shares the same DNA. It’s the genes that make one cell completely different from another cell and they become specialized when specific genes are turned on or off.
An example of this is in your stomach where you will only have genes that support your stomach turned on.
Stem cells have a lot of power to morph from the very beginning. As each one becomes selective, they turn the genes on or off for the particular purpose as well as an organ that they are going to support.
When a stem cell becomes very specialized it will only have the genes needed turned on and all others turned off.
Scientists are constantly studying stem cells and their abilities.
The big question is if stem cells are always renewing, why do people get old? Some have a theory that as time passes, our stem cells may experience damage.
Without the ability to renew and change, fewer and fewer stem cells are doing the job and this is why our bodies age and start to deteriorate.
Cell Differentiation Quiz
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