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What is Histology?

(cerebellum under microscope view)

Histology is the study of tissues and cells, looking in depth at the fine details revealed by optical microscopes. The optical microscope is able to examine specially prepared samples of plant or animal tissue, most usually to up to a maximum magnification of x1500. Samples of cells will be specially prepared, to produce a thin layer of material which might be stained to reveal specific structures or materials. Optical microscopes have been available since around 1620, although the very first were more of a novelty item, providing a low magnification and a rather blurry image. Over time the technical specification of the microscope has been increased to the high resolution equipment available to the modern scientist.

For most people, the first experience of microscopy is in the classroom, using fairly basic equipment, but this gives us all an indication of the amazing microscopic world around us and allows us to begin to think at the microscopic level. The fact that we can see cellular structures in detail allows us to begin to think about how cells and, ultimately, the wide range of plants and animals in the world, actually work.

So histology is widely used in scientific fields, becoming an essential tool in biology, medicine and veterinary sciences.

In education, histology is used to show the normal structure of cells of plants and animals and to underpin the understanding of the fundamental processes of living creatures: movement, reproduction, sensitivity, nutrition, excretion, respiration and growth. By examining the cell structures in depth the scientist is able to develop an understanding of the chemical and biological processes that are taking place at a cellular level. They can come to understand the way to form of the cell follows the function the cell, and how the cell is specialised to do a specific job within the body.

It is a key aspect of the diagnosis of disease, with the analysis of tissue samples being a vital part of many diagnostic processes. Histopathology, the study of diseased tissues, is a significant area of study and essential to this process. This process is most usually undertaken in a Pathology Laboratory, the domain of the Clinical Pathologist, a medical specialist concerned with the diagnosis of disease. It is to the Pathology Lab that the samples taken in a doctor’s surgery, or at a hospital, are sent for analysis.

Forensic science also employs microbiological techniques of tissue analysis and comparison along with the study and comparison of inanimate structures such as fabric fibres, soil and pain samples and so on. This is a highly specialised area where the skills of the scientist must be used alongside the considerations of legal demands around criminal procedure and admissible evidence.

The process of autopsy, the analysis of post mortem remains, will often also include the microbiological study of tissues and tissue structures, aiding the process of understanding the cause of a death.

Finally forensic archaeologists will use microscopic analysis of tissues to gain understanding of the lives of individuals living many hundreds of years ago.

Microscopes have opened the door to understanding the way the cells of plants and animals are structured and function, expanding the horizon for scientists each and every day. You can find a wide range of Microscopes at http://mazurekopticalservices.co.uk/