Basic Types of Cells

The Four Main Types of Cells

Even though there are several hundred cell types in the body, all of them can be grouped into just four main categories, or tissues. This makes them easier to understand.

These four main tissues are formed from:

  1. Epithelial Cells. These cells are tightly attached to one another. They cover over the interior of hollow organs, like blood vessels or digestive organs, or else form the surface of things, like the skin. There are dozens of types of epithelial cells. Without epithelial cells, you would have no skin to protect your body from injury and would have no stomach to digest your food!
  2. Nerve Cells. These cells are specialized for communication. They send signals from the brain to muscles and glands that control their functions. They also receive sensory information from the skin, the eyes, and the ears, and send this information to the brain. There are dozens of varieties of nerve cells in the body, each with their own shapes and functions. You would have no consciousness or control over your body without nerve cells.
  3. Muscle Cells. These cells are specialized for contraction. Without muscle cells, you would not be able to move! There are three kinds of muscle cells. They pull and tug on bones and tendons to produce motion. They also form the thick outer walls of hollow organs, like blood vessels and digestive organs, and can contract to regulate the diameter of these hollow organs.
  4. Connective Tissue Cells. These cells provide structural strength to the body and also defend against foreign invaders like bacteria. Two types of cells—fibroblasts and fat cells—are native to connective tissue. Other cells migrate into connective tissue from the bloodstream to fight diseases. Special types of connective tissue—cartilage and bone—are designed to be stronger and more rigid than most connective tissues.

Related Topics

Written by John Young

John K. Young is a retired professor of Cell Biology. He worked in the Department of Anatomy at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC for 35 years, teaching his students about cells. During his career, Dr. Young published scientific articles about a part of the brain called the hypothalamus and also wrote a number of books about cells and about the brain.

You can follow John Young