Cellular Adaptation: Increases in Number or Size

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  • 0:07 Getting Bigger or More…
  • 0:47 Hypertrophy
  • 1:51 Hyperplasia
  • 2:55 Neoplasia
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will compare and contrast different types of cell, organ, and tissue growths. More specifically, we'll cover hypertrophy, hyperplasia, and neoplasia.

Getting Bigger or More Numerous

When you were growing up, you were just getting bigger - or so it seemed. But the thing is, unlike what you saw in front of the mirror or marked off every few months on the wall, the cells that multiplied or increased in size in order to help you grow have many different ways by which they can get bigger or increase in number.

This lesson will explore how it is that cells in our body change as a result of different processes. Sometimes, this growth is absolutely necessary for your mom or dad to mark a new line above the old one on your height measurement sticker. However, in some cases, this growth can cause your death.


One really famous growth in cell size is known as hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the enlargement of a cell, tissue, or organ as a result of increase in cell size.

Let's use a balloon as an example. If you were to fill the balloon with air, that would be akin to hypertrophy. The number of balloons didn't change, and the balloon intrinsically didn't change either. The color, texture, and material are still exactly the same. That's hypertrophy.

In the real world, hypertrophy occurs as a result of the cell synthesizing more organelles, or little structures within the cell, causing the cell to increase in size. One reason for this can be due to something like weightlifting. As you lift weights, your muscles increase in size to accommodate the stresses being placed upon it, but they do not increase in number. That's why if anyone says that a bodybuilder has more muscles than you do, you'll know they are not using the right terminology. A bodybuilder's muscles may be bigger than yours, but they are not more numerous.


Let's contrast hypertrophy with hyperplasia. Hyperplasia is the increase in the number of cells that make up tissues or organs. In this case, the balloon doesn't expand as per hypertrophy. Instead, like a magician, you take one balloon and turn it into many of the same types of balloon as before without blowing any of them up. They stay the same in size and simply increase in number.

Hyperplasia involves the normal cells in your body, and this process can be reversed as soon as a stimulus for their original growth is removed - meaning, hyperplasia can be caused by something like hormones that cause cells to grow in number. As soon as the level of that hormone in the body decreases, the hyperplastic growth ceases and reverses, resulting in atrophy of that tissue. One notable example of this type of growth is known as BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia, where the prostate's epithelial and stromal cells undergo hyperplasia, enlarging the prostate as a result.


Hyperplasia is in contrast to neoplasia. In simple terms, neoplasia is the novel growth and proliferation of abnormal cells; a tumor. A tumor is a collection of cells that have undergone changes in size and number.

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