Cell biology (formerly cytology, from the Greek kytos, "contain") is a scientific discipline that studies cells – their physiological properties, their structure, the organelles they contain, interactions with their environment, their life cycle, division and death. This is done both on a microscopic and molecular level. Cell biology research encompasses both the great diversity of single-celled organisms like bacteria and protozoa, as well as the many specialized cells in multicellular organisms such as humans, plants, and sponges.
Knowing the components of cells and how cells work is fundamental to all biological sciences. Appreciating the similarities and differences between cell types is particularly important to the fields of cell and molecular biology as well as to biomedical fields such as cancer research and developmental biology. These fundamental similarities and differences provide a unifying theme, sometimes allowing the principles learned from studying one cell type to be extrapolated and generalized to other cell types. Therefore, research in cell biology is closely related to genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology, and developmental biology.
Turgor pressure pushes the plasma membrane against the cell wall of plant, bacteria, and fungi cells as well as those protist cells which have cell walls. This pressure, turgidity, is caused by the osmotic flow of water from area of low solute concentration outside of the cell into the cell's vacuole, which has a higher solute concentration. Healthy plant cells are turgid and plants rely on turgidity to maintain rigidity. In contrast, this phenomenon is not observed in animal cells which have no cell walls to prevent them from being burst by the flow of water into the cell and must either continually pump out water or live in an isotonic solution where there is no osmotic pressure.
A physical phenomenon known as osmosis causes water to flow from an area of low solute concentration to an area of high solute concentration until the two areas have an equal ratio of solute to water. Normally, the solute diffuses toward equilibrium as well; however, all cells are surrounded by a lipid bilayer cell membrane which permits the flow of water in and out of the cell but restricts the flow of solute under many circumstances. As a result, when a cell is placed in a hypotonic solution, water rushes into the membrane, increasing the cell's volume.