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The process by which cells become more specialised in form and function.

Use in clinical context

At fertilisation a single cell with a complete genomic complement is formed. All the different cells of the organism will originate from this single cell following a process of cell division and differentiation. Cellular differentiation also occurs throughout life to replenish cells as they die. Examples of cells that are being produced and differentiating regularly are blood cells, these all come from haemopoietic stem cells. Other tissue types have their own stem cells replenishing tissue as needed. In addition to dividing uncontrollably, cancer cells do not differentiate as they should and often do not resemble the surrounding tissue.

Related terms

Cell | Cell division | Fertilisation

Last updated on 24th May, 2019