I know this has been discussed in a previous forum, but the final outcome should have been better... There was strong disagreement between members about the need for a distinction, but finally, the issue remained completely unresolved.
I don't intend to make a Solomon's judgement here. My position is that it is a relevant distinction to make and that it should be implemented slowly but surely from the base up, until usage in one way or another prevails.
However, I strongly object to the term "in cellulo" for a very simple reason: it's not even Latin! I have nothing against creating a new term as long as it follows the rules of nomenclature. And here, these rules are quite simple:all similar expressions in biology are derived from Latin, not from some idea of Latin that some dunce had one ominous day when that expression was first forged and inserted in a publication !
Of course, no true classical Latin name exists for a living cell, but the scientific acceptations of the term in Latin are cella, -ae (fem.).(orig. a small chamber) and cellula, -ae (fem.) (orig. a ... very small chamber!). Since the terms in vitro and in vivo use the ablative case, the properly derived term that parallels the two other accepted situations should be in cellaor in cellula (not "in cellulo"!!!).
In summary, the currently increasing use of "in cellulo" is incorrect since it does not respect the gender of the Latrin name for cell. One may argue that the Latin word "cellulum" ( which would be neutral) could be specially created to "force-fit" an ad hoc term for a phonetic equivalent to in vivo and in vitro, This could be justified by the fact that there is no true classical Latin word for a living cell, as mentioned above. However, there is a tradition in the scientific and medical literatures of the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries (in Latin) established for either cella or cellula. Cellulum simply never existed!
At this stage, editors could easily agree to recommend a change to in cellula in the immediate future before the mistake becomes too widespread to make a change in direction.
I wouldn't expect a large fraction of the biological community to care about this, since Latin isn't part of the curriculum for most younger biologists. But for old geezers who happened to spend several high school years studying Latin, I cannot tell how much it hurts every time I see "in cellulo" in print !
I think I will insert in cellula in my next manuscript and see what happens ...
So, who's with me? Or: "What? Me worry?"
Actually, if we want to be more precise, we shouldn’t forget to add a stroke or circumflex accent on the [a] in cellula (being first declension and all) to denote the ablative case ...
As you had already mentioned, there was no official latin term for cell in the early 1600s and Robert Hooke coined the word cell from cellula but I guess, once anglicised, it already lost its original gender and likewise, why shld it follow the rules of declension? With modern day scientific writing, perhaps by chance, many latin terms/phrases used have the o endings (esp the ablative form) eg in vitro, de novo, in toto, in utero. So it’s not surprising why the latinised ‘in the cell’ would follow the same rule to fit in with the others or by virtue of parallel association. Besides, if we really wish to be more pedantic: in cellulā would mean ‘ in the small room’ and not ‘in the cell’…so theoretically, it's also not the perfect phrase that fits.....
Personally, a more interesting question is must we continue churning out new terms (even if pig, I mean, corrupted Latin) for something which is pretty much covered by an already existing one?
Here is a nice primer on commonly used latin terms in scientific writing: