By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe the roles of cells in organisms
- Compare and contrast light microscopy and electron microscopy
- Summarize the cell theory
A cell is the smallest unit of a living thing. A living thing, like you, is called an organism. Thus, cells are the basic building blocks of all organisms.
In multicellular organisms, several cells of one particular kind interconnect with each other and perform shared functions to form tissues (for example, muscle tissue, connective tissue, and nervous tissue), several tissues combine to form an organ (for example, stomach, heart, or brain), and several organs make up an organ system (such as the digestive system, circulatory system, or nervous system). Several systems functioning together form an organism (such as an elephant, for example).
There are many types of cells, and all are grouped into one of two broad categories: prokaryotic and eukaryotic. Animal cells, plant cells, fungal cells, and protist cells are classified as eukaryotic, whereas bacteria and archaea cells are classified as prokaryotic. Before discussing the criteria for determining whether a cell is prokaryotic or eukaryotic, let us first examine how biologists study cells.