Cell type definitions


Comprising neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils, granulocytes are granule-filled white blood cells that are part of the innate immune system. They have a primary function of responding to tissue damage and foreign particles.

Lymphatic endothelial cells

Lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) are specialised endothelial cells that form lymphatic vessels. Lymphatic vessels drain interstitial fluid from tissues.


Tissue-resident immune cells involved in tissue maintenance. The many functions of macrophages include detection of tissue damage or pathogens, efferocytosis (clearance of dying or dead cells), phagocytosis of tissue debris and foreign particles, and regulation of inflammation.

Mast cells

Mast cells are an immune cell type involved in inflammation. They are particularly noteworthy for their production and release of histamine.

Mesenchymal cells

Mesenchymal cells support, maintain and repair the tissue but are not endothelial cells or leukocytes. Fibroblasts are an example of a mesenchymal cell.

Mural cells

Mural cells are comprised of vascular smooth muscle cells and pericytes. They wrap around capillaries and larger vessels and interact directly with endothelial cells.

Natural killer cells

Natural killer cells are lymphoid cells (related to B and T cells) that are an important part of the innate immune system. A primary function of these cells are to target stressed cells, such as virus-infected or tumour cells


Pericytes are an abundant cell type intimately associated with the microvasculature (capillaries) of tissues. They play multiple roles including formation and maintenance of blood vessels and regulation of inflammation.

Schwann cells

Schwann cells are cells of the peripheral nervous system that produce myelin to form myelin sheaths. Myelin sheaths wrap around nerve axons to insulate them to increase electrical conductance.

Smooth muscle cells

Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) are a contractile cell type found in a number of tissues including arteries and large veins. They support tissue contraction and pulsatile action.