What Are the Limitations to Cell Theory?


Diego Sanchez

The cell theory is a fundamental concept in the field of biology. It was first proposed by Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann in the 1830s.

According to the cell theory, all living organisms are composed of cells, which are the basic units of life. While this theory has been widely accepted, there are some limitations to it that have been identified over time.

Limitations to Cell Theory

1. Viruses

One of the main limitations of cell theory is that it does not account for viruses. Viruses are not considered living organisms because they cannot reproduce on their own and do not have a cellular structure. However, they do possess genetic material and can infect living cells and hijack their machinery to replicate themselves.

2. Mitochondria and Chloroplasts

Another limitation is that cell theory does not explain the origin of mitochondria and chloroplasts, which are organelles found in eukaryotic cells. These organelles have their own DNA and can reproduce independently of the host cell. It is believed that they were once free-living prokaryotes that were engulfed by eukaryotic cells through endosymbiosis.

3. Multicellular Organisms

Cell theory also falls short when it comes to explaining how multicellular organisms function as a whole. While each individual cell performs its own specific function, there needs to be coordination between different cells for the organism to work properly. This coordination involves complex signaling pathways and communication between cells.


In conclusion, while the cell theory has provided a solid foundation for understanding life on Earth, it is important to acknowledge its limitations as well. As our understanding of biology continues to evolve, so too will our understanding of these limitations and how we can overcome them.