Target Cell

Last Updated: September 16, 2018

Definition - What does Target Cell mean?

A target cell is a particular cell with attached receptors to which a biochemical agent such as a hormone binds together, inducing a physiological reaction in the body. The endocrine system contributes to vital homeostatic functions where target cells facilitate the production and distribution of enzymes to different organs. Hormones gravitate to target cells that contain matching receptors forming a molecular bond to carry out biological and metabolic processes.

WorkplaceTesting explains Target Cell

Target cells and the endocrine system function as an interdependent network, releasing and maintaining natural secretions of hormones diffused in the blood. Several factors influence the biomechanical aspects that hormones have when connecting to a particular target cell. For instance, the hormone estrogen acts in a dual capacity by stimulating uterine cells in women during regular menstrual cycles in conjunction with promoting bone density. The body depends on an autonomous supply of hormones to specific target cells followed by glandular reuptake, curtailing the amount needed to perform immediate and/or sustained cellular activity.

Common hormonal responses can include an accelerated heart rate coupled with fast breathing (immediate response) or continual growth of bone and/or muscle tissue (sustained) as normal health mechanisms. However, a natural release of hormones can be altered by ingesting artificial supplements, incidentally, disrupting the interplay between hormones and target cells. Natural hormones are classified as agonists, directly binding to compatible target cells while antagonists have counteracting effects in which drugs substitute as hormone replacements.

For example, anabolic steroids are synthetic growth enhancement drugs, mimicking the hormone testosterone that is responsible for masculine features. Many individuals abuse steroids to improve strength in competitive sports and other lines of work, raising conflicting issues over its legitimate use, particularly with safety-sensitive positions.

Although drug testing is available, laboratories and medical review officers (MRO) with solid credentials are limited.

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