Why Is Cell Division Important?

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  • 0:00 What Is Cell Division?
  • 0:50 Cell Division In Eukaryotes
  • 1:33 Importance And…
  • 3:50 Cell Division In Prokaryotes
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

This lesson is on the importance of cell division. In this lesson, we'll go over what cell division is in different types of cells and examples of the importance of it.

What Is Cell Division?

Human life starts with two cells fusing together during fertilization. Through gestation, or pregnancy, we grow into tiny humans. As we age, there is tremendous growth. By the time we've reached our 20's, we've changed from a single cell into a fully-grown adult.

How does this amazing feat happen? The answer is cell division. Cell division is the process of making two identical copies from one cell. All cells grow and split into two to continue their life cycle, however, different types of cells do this differently. There are two main types of cells: eukaryotes, which have a nucleus to hold their DNA, and prokaryotes, which don't have a nucleus. The DNA in prokaryotes is just free floating in the cell. Let's look at how cell division works in eukaryotes first.

Cell Division in Eukaryotes

Animals, plants and fungi are all eukaryotes. Technically we humans are animals, so we are eukaryotes. Eukaryotes can be composed of a single cell, or they can be multicellular like us. Animals, plants, and fungi generally follow the same process of cell division, called mitosis. In mitosis, DNA is doubled and the nucleus dissolves, freeing the DNA, which is condensed as chromosomes, to migrate to either side of the cell. Through multiple steps, called phases, the single cell divides into two. In this lesson, we'll focus on the importance of mitosis, instead of the steps. Check out another lesson on cell division to get all the details on the process.

Importance And Problems In Eukaryotes

Mitosis serves three main purposes in eukaryotic cells: reproduction in single cells, growth and development, and repair. Some eukaryotes are single-celled, much like an amoeba. These organisms use mitosis to reproduce their species. Each new organism is an exact copy of the previous one. They do not use sexual reproduction like many multicellular organisms.

In multicellular organisms like humans, mitosis is used for growth, development, and repair. As we discussed in the introduction, we start from a single cell. That cell must go through mitosis to create new cells, which will also then undergo mitosis. This process continues until we have the several trillion cells that make up our entire body. The cells we start with are like a blank page; they can become anything. Through multiple divisions and cues from their environment they change, or differentiate, into all the different types of cells we need in our body, like brain cells or heart cells. These cells are shaped differently and have very different functions in the body, however, through mitosis and signals from the body, they all arose from the same original cell. This differentiation from cells causes development, or changes in our body's structure as we age.

Mitosis continues throughout our life. Any time you have a cut or an injury, your body must get rid of the damaged cells and reproduce new, healthy cells. First, blood vessels are closed using small molecules called proteins, then white blood cells clear the area of any bacteria. Once that is done, cells that exist beneath our skin, called fibroblasts, divide and fill the gap in the wound. Lastly, skin cells divide and migrate from the edges of the wound to fill the scrape and make new skin. The process of a scrape healing is mitosis in action!

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