I'm just curious which cells are largest/smallest in the human body other than sperm/ova.

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    $\begingroup$ Definitely by mass or by length? $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Nov 21, 2012 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ Am I missing a clue or is this as straightforward as: biggest cell - ovum, smallest cell - sperm? Or are you only concerned about non-germline cells? $\endgroup$
    – Armatus
    Nov 21, 2012 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry to move the ball @Armatus, but yes, I was thinking non-germline (I give you a comment upvote anyway for the "real" right answer). $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2012 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Definitely by mass @Rory M♦ $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2012 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


Large cells: adipocytes, the cells that store fat are possible the largest in humans, because after puberty they rarely divide and just enlarge if a person gains weight. A typical adipocyte is about 0.1mm in diameter, but may be a lot larger. Another good candidate is a megakaryocyte, which is a gigantic (up to 0.1mm), cell with multiple copies of its genome producing blood platelets. Depending on your definition of a single cell, also myocytes may be considered large cells, because during development several cells fuse to form one muscular fibre. Additionally, myocytes gain weight if a person excersises and strengthens muscles.

Small cells are more common, and it is difficult to point to some consistently smallest cells. The smallest kind-of-cells are definately platelets and erythrocytes (red blood cells - they are anucleated, thus may not be considered "real" cells). Generally, the part that determines the minimum size of the cell is the nucleus, so any cells, that are more-or-less metabolically inactive may be just a tiny bit larger than the size of their nucleuses. These may be for example polar cells, the tiny cells, that carry the excess of genome during meiosis in women and die soon afterwards.

If you are interested in all kinds of strange cells inside yourself, you might start by browsing this beautiful, though longish list.

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    $\begingroup$ If multiply nucleated cells count, the syncitiotrophoblast of the placenta is a big candidate :) $\endgroup$
    – Armatus
    Nov 23, 2012 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ Right, I forgot about that one. I think I just focused on adult cells. $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2012 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ Are nerve cells not larger (1 meter or more)? $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Nov 23, 2012 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ Quote: Definitely by mass @Rory M♦ – joseph_morris 2 days ago $\endgroup$ Nov 23, 2012 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Long human axons are up to 20um in diameter, their bodies are very small, so I think we can assume, that such a very long human axon is a long, thin tube of 20umx1m. This means it's volume is about 31,400,000um^3. If a large adipocyte is 0.2mm (200um, same source as previously) in diameter and a sphere, it is 4,190,000um^3. So yes, an extremely long axon is larger than a large adipocyte, but I could go on searching for a largest adipocyte known to science and I'm almost certain, that I could find something larger ;) $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2012 at 20:59

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