Meaning of Germ Cells

What are germ cells?

Germ cells are those that are responsible for the formation of gametes, that is, the ovules and the spermatozoa, hence they contain genetic information that will be transmitted to the embryo. However, they should not be confused with stem cells.

These cells, like somatic cells, are derived from stem cells. However, the germ cells are the only ones that go through the process of meiosis for their subsequent division into gametes.

However, in those organisms that have an established germ line, the germ cells are derived from the primordial germ cells, which migrate to the gonads to carry out the formation of gametes.

primordial germ cells

Primordial germ cells (PGC) are cells that are characterized by having the capacity for self-renewal and being the precursors of gametes, therefore they are located in the embryonic tissue that gives rise to the gonads, that is, oogonia or spermatogonia, depending on the whether it is feminine or masculine.

Although scientists are unclear about their origin, primordial germ cells are known to be found in the extra-embryonic mesoderm, are easy to identify, and are embryonic ancestors of the sex glands.

It should be noted that primordial germ cells develop very early in human embryogenesis, from a pool of stem cells found outside the embryo in the yolk sac.

PGCs begin to move or migrate into the embryo at the fourth week of development, reaching the gonads by about the sixth week.

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Germ cell importance

Knowing the functions of the germ cells is extremely important because it has to do with various characteristics or genetic changes that are inherited during the formation of the embryo, both in people and in animals, and that are transmitted from one generation to another.

Likewise, germ cells are the only cells in mammals that can undergo the process of meiosis, the cell division in which the number of chromosomes in the species is reduced by half.

Therefore, its scientific study allows researching and proposing medical procedures, drugs or treatments that effectively combat certain inherited diseases such as cancer, genetic diseases, among others.

Even the study of germ cells can provide information on reproductive processes and the causes of infertility.

See also Cell.