Specialised Cells: Their Function

Cells become specialized so that they can perform a set of particular roles or functions, playing their part in reproduction, energy metabolism, regeneration, information transfer, etc.

One of the fascinating areas of study about the human body is cell biology. Cell biology is the study of the microscopic cells (specialized or otherwise) that of which the human body is made up and of their function.

The simplest and most graphically useful ways to think about these microcells is like the building blocks whose unique working combination makes the human body function how it is meant to. There are many kinds of cells. Some of them are grouped together and make up different body parts, such as the case of body tissue, for example. But others carry out rather more specialized and complex tasks or functions.

These specialized cells carry out their functions because they were specifically designed to do so. It is important to note that each of them has been formed separately and they function autonomously. This is because each one of them has a specific function to perform that cannot be interfered with.

Here is the full list of specialized cells and their function (in alphabetical order):

  • Neurons
  • Muscle cells
  • Sperm cells
  • Red blood cells
  • Leukocyte cells

If you would like to know more about each of these specialized cells and their functions, read on. What follows is a detailed description of each of these specialized cells and their functions in the human body, including those particular features they possess that allow them to carry out their different functions.


The specialization of neurons, also known as neurons or nerve cells, is carrying messages within the brain. Although neurons do have some similar features as other cells in the human body, their specialized features enable them to carry out the communication within the brain, which is their unique function.

One important thing to note about neurons is that they come in different shapes and sizes.

How do neurons carry out their functions? The way neurons communicate within the brain is by using their dendrites and axons. Dendrites and axons are the extensions of neurons. They are able to emit information from the cells and also receive information from other neurons. But also, they have internal structures and chemicals that are specifically designed to allow them to communicate with each other.

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” — Donald O. Hebb

Neurons are the specialized cells responsible for allowing all the basic body functions to take place correctly as all the necessary communication happens through them.

Muscle Cells

Muscle cells or myocyte cells are specialized in making all movement possible. These cells have a cylindrical shape that allows them to contract. They are made up of bonded fibers.

So, what is the function of muscle cells? Any tasks that involve movement are only possibly completed thanks to muscle cells.

Individual muscle cells are joined together, thus, creating larger structures.

Sperm Cells

All specialized cells are extremely important in the functioning of the human body and sperm cells, also known as motile sperm cells, are not the exception to that.

The specialization of sperm cells is assisting in human reproduction. In fact, human reproduction would not be possible without them.

Every batch of sperm represents an opportunity for genetic typos – called de novo mutations – to be passed on. A 20-year-old man and woman will each pass on about 20 de novo mutations to a baby they conceive. By the time the couple is 40, a woman’s total has remained at 20, while a man’s has jumped to 65 – and it keeps climbing from there. – Jeffrey Kluger

What are specialized sperm cells made from? What distinguishes sperm cells from other cells is that they are mostly nucleus. Another distinguishing feature is that sperm cells move around quite a bit, while many other cells tend to remain stationary.

The fact that sperm cells are highly mobile is what allows them to locate eggs and fertilize it. What allows sperm cells to move is the mitochondria they contain. The mitochondria produce the necessary energy so sperm cells can not only move around but also do so at such phenomenal speed as they do.

Red Blood Cells

One of the essential functions that cells carry out is distributing oxygen (O2) throughout the human body, so it can be delivered to each and every one of the organs. This function is specifically carried out by red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes.

Unlike some of the specialized cells that we have already discussed, red blood cells, which are also known as erythrocytes, are distinguished by not having a nucleus or mitochondria. It is precisely this lack of pieces that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.

So, what are red blood cells made from? Mostly, they are made up of a chemical known as hemoglobin, which is what allows them to carry oxygen.

Another distinguishing feature of red blood cells or erythrocytes is that their cytoplasm contains plenty of a biomolecule known as hemoglobin, which is rich in iron. Thanks to hemoglobin, red cells can not only bind oxygen but they also get their characteristic red color.


One of the biggest challenges that human bodies have to deal with is fighting external infection. And that is what the specialized cell Leukocyte or white blood cells are there for. They are responsible for keeping the body free from infection.

How do leukocyte cells keep the human body free from infection? They do so by locating the microbes that have entered the human body and then they destroy them.

These cells are, therefore, highly mobile as they can stay in one place in order to carry out their important functions. Otherwise, they could not respond and treat the infection effectively. They use their high mobility for two main interlinked reasons. First, the move so they can locate the microbes. But their movements do not stop just once they have found the microbes. They often have to push through capillary walls, so they can get to the sites that have been infected.

Apart from being highly mobile, leukocyte cells are also distinguished because they can and indeed do shift their shapes regularly. This characteristic is also essential in enabling leukocyte cells to carry out their functions.