Cheek cells are cells in the basal lining that lines the inside of the mouth. Their main job is to produce proteins called mucins, which are the basic constituent of mucus and help keep the inside of the mouth moist. This is essential for chewing, softening, swallowing, and digesting food. Cheek cells also contribute to innate immunity by forming the oral epithelial barrier that prevents pathogens from entering the bloodstream in the mouth.

Cheek cells form the basal mucous membrane in the mouth
Cheek cells make up the tissue that lines the inside of the mouth

What is a cheek cell?

Cheek cells (AKA Cheek epithelial cells) educate the basal mucosa; that is, the tissue that lines the inside of the mouth. Cheek cells are constantly shed from the lining of the cheek and divide every 24 hours to make up for this. They are easily removed from the inside of the cheek with a swab and can be viewed under a light microscope, so cheek cells are often examined in school labs.

Structure of the cheek cells

A cheek cell is a good example of a typical animal cell, which is another reason why it is so popular in school laboratories. Like all eukaryotic cells, cheek cells do not have a cell wall. Instead, they are surrounded by a plasma membrane that gives them a round, irregular shape. They contain a prominent nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles such as mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum.

Cheek cells are typical animal cells
A cheek cell contains a prominent nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles

Function of the cheek cells

The cheek cells have two key functions. Their main job is to secrete mucins, which are a major component of mucus and help keep the inside of the mouth moist. But cheek cells are also part of the innate immune system and form a physical barrier against pathogens and toxins in the mouth.

Mucin secretion

The main function of the cheek cells is secrete proteins called mucins, which are an important part of the mucus. In combination with saliva from the salivary glands, mucous substances help to keep the inside of the mouth moist. This helps with chewing, softening, enzymatic digestion and swallowing of food. Therefore, cheek cells play a central role in initiating food digestion.

Protection against pathogens

Cheek cells form the oral epithelial barrier against pathogens in the mouth
Cheek cells form a physical barrier against pathogens in the mouth

Cheek cells form the oral epithelial barrier in the mouth, the The body’s first line of defense against pathogens and toxins. Infectious agents that get into the mouth with food cannot penetrate this barrier to get into the bloodstream. Instead, they are swallowed and eventually destroyed by the highly acidic conditions of the stomach.

Cheek cells and DNA tests

DNA testing is a laboratory technique used to analyze a person’s DNA and can be done for a number of reasons. For example, a DNA test can be used to confirm a child’s ancestry, diagnose genetic disorders, or identify the perpetrator of a crime. Cheek cells are often used as a source of DNAbecause they are readily available without invasive intervention. They are constantly being shed from the basal mucous membrane and can be removed painlessly by rubbing a cotton swab on the inside of the cheek.

After taking a sample of cheek cells, DNA is extracted from their nuclei and treated with a. amplified Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR makes millions or even billions of copies of the DNA molecules in the sample. This significantly increases the amount of DNA, which enables analysis with other laboratory techniques.

Cheek cells are often used in DNA testing
Cheek cells are easy to get for DNA testing

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