Lamins are the major structural components of the nuclear lamina found in metazoan organisms. Extensive studies using tissue culture cells have shown that lamins are involved in a wide range of basic cell functions. This has led to the prevailing idea that a given animal cell needs at least one lamin protein for its basic proliferation and survival. However, recent studies have shown that lamins are dispensable for the proliferation and survival of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESC). In contrast to a lack of essential functions in ESCs, certain differentiated cells lacking B-type lamins exhibit increased cell cycle exit rates and enhanced senescence. In this Extra View, we discuss how studies using animal models and cell cultures have begun to reveal cell-type specific functions of lamins in tissue building and homeostasis.