What is Histology?

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  • Written By: Rachel Burkot
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Histology is the study of the cells and tissues of plants, animals and humans. It is a Greek word that comes from histos, meaning tissue, and logia, meaning knowledge. Together, the words combine to mean the analysis of composition, structure and function of tissue. The discipline also studies cells and, to a lesser degree, organs.

Cells and tissues are placed under a microscope and studied closely for diseases and other abnormalities. The science is built on the premises of larger disciplines because it studies the building blocks of a human, animal or plant structure. Tissues, which are collections of cells, are studied in groups. In plants, cell histology investigates how cells process nutrients, get rid of waste and interact with other cells. Human histology places a strong focus on how cells become tissues, which become organs, which become body systems.


Histological studies and programs are similar to cellular biology courses. Those interested in pursuing a career as a histotechnician will take such classes at four-year colleges such as Tulane University, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of California at Davis and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Topics covered in these courses include cell parts, cellular junctions, tissue types and structures, connective tissue and the functions of the circulatory system. Both theoretical and practical learning takes place in these programs, and individual or group lab projects are often assigned, with lab problems, reports and independent research as well. Students interested in histology should have a good grasp of subjects such as math, biology and chemistry.

After a student completes the necessary coursework and training, he or she becomes a histotechnician, or histology technician. These doctors perform histology staining, which involves placing a slice of tissue under a microscope and studying it. Histologists also investigate tissue structures and perform experiments. Histologists are similar to science technicians and biological, medical, agricultural and food scientists, and they may work with these medical personnel as well.

This field is often referred to as microscopic anatomy because of its reliance on carefully magnified studies. Additionally, it is close to cytology, a branch of biology that deals solely with cells. This science can be broken down into three sub classifications: cytology, histology proper (tissues) and organology. Not only does histology attempt to identify diseases, the discipline focuses on understanding everything about cells and tissues and, by default, organs.


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