The key difference between specialized cells and stem cells is that specialized cells are differentiated cells which have a special function to carry out while stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells which are not specialized for any particular function but have the ability to differentiate into specialized cells.
Multicellular complex organisms develop from a fertilized egg or a zygote, which is a single diploid cell. The zygote has the ability to divide and produce cells. Therefore, the zygote is the primary source of cell differentiation. It has stem cells which are undifferentiated cells. Stem cells can divide without a limit. Undifferentiated cells become specialized or differentiated cells as a result of differentiation. Stem cells give rise to specialized cells. Specialized cells have a tissue-specific structure and a specific task to perform.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Specialized Cells
3. What are Stem Cells
4. Similarities Between Specialized Cells and Stem Cells
5. Side by Side Comparison – Specialized Cells vs Stem Cells in Tabular Form
What are Specialized Cells?
Cellular differentiation is the process that converts the least specialized cells into a state of more specialized cell types. In developmental biology, cellular differentiation is one of the major aspects. As a result of differentiation, different tissues in the body have different types of specialized cells. Specialized cells have tissue-specific structures; hence they perform specialized functions. For example, red blood cells are specialized cells in the blood tissue. They carry oxygen to other tissues of the body.
Unlike stem cells, specialized cells have a more effective function within the body. The connection between stem cells and specialized cells is that specialized cells are produced through the division of stem cells into fully differentiated daughter cells. When differentiating the stem cells, the size and the shapes are altered. Moreover, cell differentiation causes changes in metabolic activity and the response to stimuli. However, cell differentiation does not cause a change in the DNA sequence. But, it is important to mention that cell differentiation has the ability to switch off certain genes that are not necessary for a particular tissue. Nerve cells, muscle cells, epithelial cells, blood cells are some of the examples for specialized cells.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells which are not specialized for any particular function. These cells have the ability to differentiate into specialized cells and also to give rise to more stem cells through mitosis. There are two unique characteristics of stem cells which help to distinguish them from other cells. Firstly, they are unspecialized cells which are able to renew themselves via cell division even after a certain time period of inactivity. For example, in organs such as bone marrow, there is a regular division of stem cells to repair and replace damaged tissues. Secondly, they have the ability to develop into tissues or organ-specific cells.
The stem cells have several differentiation potentials. They can be categorized as totipotent, pluripotent and multipotent. Totipotent stem cells are capable of differentiating into embryonic cell types. Pluripotent stem cells are produced from totipotent cells and are capable of differentiating into almost every type of cell, and they are derived from the three germ layers. Multipotent stem cells are able to differentiate into a number of cells which are of the same family.
Two types of stem cells are used for studies at present, and they are embryonic stem cells and adult/somatic stem cells (tissue-specific stem cells). Embryonic stem cells are the cells which are present in the blastocyst and in the embryo of 3 to 5 days post-fertilization. They are pluripotent; therefore, all the derivatives of the three germ layers are developed through embryonic stem cells. Adult or somatic stem cells are the stem cells which repair and maintain damaged tissues. Most adult stem cells are multipotent while pluripotent stem cells are rarely found. Bone marrow is an example for adult stem cells which are used for several treatments.
What are the Similarities Between Specialized Cells and Stem Cells?
- Stem cells have the ability to differentiate into specialized cells.
- Stem cells are the foundation for specialized cells present in tissues and organs.
- Stem cells and specialized cells are found in multi-cellular complex organisms.
- They are eukaryotic cells.
What is the Difference Between Specialized Cells and Stem Cells?
Specialized cells are differentiated cells and have specific functions to do while stem cells are undifferentiated and unspecialized cells that can divide without a limit. So this is the key difference between specialized cells and stem cells. Moreover, the specialized cells have a tissue-specific structure, and they are assigned to carry out specific functions while the stem cells do not carry out specific functions.
Furthermore, stem cells do not have a shape and a definite size, while specialized cells have a specific shape and size. Hence, it is another difference between specialized cells and stem cells.
The below infographic tabulates side-by-side the differences between specialized cells and stem cells.
Summary – Specialized Cells vs Stem Cells
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells which have the ability to divide for a long period of time and give rise to specialized cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells which do not have a specific task to carry out. In contrast to that, specialized cells have specific functions to perform. They are differentiated cells. They are named as muscle cells, skin cells and nerves, etc. according to the type of tissue. Thus, this summarizes the difference between specialized cells and stem cells.