What is a goblet cell?

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All living things are made up of cells. These cells are the smallest and the most basic unit of the body and are often termed the building blocks of the body. The number of cells in different plants and animals vary. Different types of cells perform different functions. One kind of cell found in living organisms is the goblet cell.

Goblet cells are epithelial cells: they are glandular and columnar cells. There main function is to secrete mucin. These cells have a certain structure: their endoplasmic reticulum is rough, and the mitochondria, nucleus, and other cell organelles are found in the basal portion of the cell. Since the function of these cells is to secrete mucin, the microvilli are projected by the apical plasma membrane in order to increase the surface area for the purpose of secretion.

These cells are well distributed in the epithelial lining of walls of organs like the trachea, the bronchus, the small intestine, the membrane of the upper eyelid, the colon, etc. Its main purpose is to lubricate these organs for their smooth functioning.

As for terminology, these cells are termed goblet cells because they are globular in shape, with the apex shaped like a cup and the base narrow. Goblet cells are imperative to living organisms because they protect against stress and chemical damage, plus they trap and eliminate microorganisms and particulate matter. Goblet cells have two types of secretion: constitutive secretion and stimulated secretion. However, stimulation by an external stimuli more often causes secretion in the these cells.

Increased numbers of goblet cells are indication of various diseases. These diseases mostly affect the respiratory system. Cystic Fibrosis and chronic acute bronchitis are a few diseases which are caused due to the abnormal increase or decrease of goblet cells. These, however, can be cured by consulting a good medical practitioner with help of proper medication.

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