Microscopic Anatomy (saylor.org)

Microscopic Anatomy (saylor.org)
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Have completed Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology and Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology.
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Microscopic Anatomy (saylor.org)
In this course, you will study microscopic anatomy. The study of the structure of a cell, tissue, organ, or related feature is known as anatomy.

MOOC List is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

In this course, you will study microscopic anatomy. The study of the structure of a cell, tissue, organ, or related feature is known as anatomy. Gross anatomy (or macroscopic anatomy) involves examining anatomical structures that can be seen with the naked eye, whereas microscopic anatomy is the examination of minute anatomical structures that cannot be observed without the help of visual enhancement, such as a microscope. The terms microscopic anatomy and histology (the study of microscopic structure of animal and plant tissue) are used interchangeably. Many times it will be necessary to survey gross anatomy so that when you focus in on the microscopic anatomy you will have a geographical idea of the location within the body. This course makes use of microscope slides of anatomical structures to aid in the discussions of anatomy.


Unit 1 begins with an overview of basic cell structure. The study of cells is known as cytology. Cells contain numerous structures that can only be seen with the aid of specialized microscopy. These structures include the central command center known as the nucleus, where DNA is housed, duplicated, and translated into RNA. Other structures, known as organelles, include the powerhouse of the cell called the mitochondria, the ribosomes, which are central in protein synthesis, and the Golgi apparatus, which is often thought of as the protein packaging plant. The endoplasmic reticulum may be studded with ribosomes (rough) or lack ribosomes (smooth). Rough endoplasmic reticulum is the site of protein synthesis and modification, whereas smooth endoplasmic reticulum is involved in lipid and steroid synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, calcium regulation, and detoxification.


You will learn how single cells come together to make up tissues in Unit 2. You will examine epithelial, connective, nervous, and muscle tissue. Epithelial tissue provides the interior lining and covers the exterior surface of most of our body’s organs including the skin. There are several types of connective tissue. Some connective tissue types are made up of collagen, elastic, and/or reticular fibers in a strong, yet somewhat flexible matrix. Other connective tissue types are fairly hard, such as bone, or may be liquid, such as blood.


After looking at the tissue types, you will study each of the organ systems in the body, understanding how these tissues fit together structurally to form organs and organ systems that carry out specific functions. You will find information in Unit 3 that overlaps with what you have already learned in Unit 2. This should not surprise you, because all of the organs and organ systems in the body are made up of the four basic tissue types.


Microscopic anatomy is an important part of overall anatomical study. Almost all of the body’s processes that occur on the gross level (observable by the naked eye) are based upon anatomical features at the microscopic level. By studying the structure of an organ or tissue and knowing what is considered normal, it makes it easier to identify abnormal features and also to understand the mechanisms that underlie pathology.


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Microscopic Anatomy

Purpose of Course


In this course, you will study microscopic anatomy. The study of the structure of a cell, tissue, organ, or related feature is known as anatomy. Gross anatomy (or macroscopic anatomy) involves examining anatomical structures that can be seen with the naked eye, whereas microscopic anatomy is the examination of minute anatomical structures that cannot be observed without the help of visual enhancement, such as a microscope. The terms microscopic anatomy and histology (the study of microscopic structure of animal and plant tissue) are used interchangeably. Many times it will be necessary to survey gross anatomy so that when you focus in on the microscopic anatomy you will have a geographical idea of the location within the body. This course makes use of microscope slides of anatomical structures to aid in the discussions of anatomy.


Unit 1 begins with an overview of basic cell structure. The study of cells is known as cytology. Cells contain numerous structures that can only be seen with the aid of specialized microscopy. These structures include the central command center known as the nucleus, where DNA is housed, duplicated, and translated into RNA. Other structures, known as organelles, include the powerhouse of the cell called the mitochondria, the ribosomes, which are central in protein synthesis, and the Golgi apparatus, which is often thought of as the protein packaging plant. The endoplasmic reticulum may be studded with ribosomes (rough) or lack ribosomes (smooth). Rough endoplasmic reticulum is the site of protein synthesis and modification, whereas smooth endoplasmic reticulum is involved in lipid and steroid synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, calcium regulation, and detoxification.


You will learn how single cells come together to make up tissues in Unit 2. You will examine epithelial, connective, nervous, and muscle tissue. Epithelial tissue provides the interior lining and covers the exterior surface of most of our body’s organs including the skin. There are several types of connective tissue. Some connective tissue types are made up of collagen, elastic, and/or reticular fibers in a strong, yet somewhat flexible matrix. Other connective tissue types are fairly hard, such as bone, or may be liquid, such as blood.


After looking at the tissue types, you will study each of the organ systems in the body, understanding how these tissues fit together structurally to form organs and organ systems that carry out specific functions. You will find information in Unit 3 that overlaps with what you have already learned in Unit 2. This should not surprise you, because all of the organs and organ systems in the body are made up of the four basic tissue types.


Microscopic anatomy is an important part of overall anatomical study. Almost all of the body’s processes that occur on the gross level (observable by the naked eye) are based upon anatomical features at the microscopic level. By studying the structure of an organ or tissue and knowing what is considered normal, it makes it easier to identify abnormal features and also to understand the mechanisms that underlie pathology.

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Learning Outcomes close

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:


Differentiate among the types of microscopy and describe the importance of microscopes in microscopic anatomy.

Correctly use the compound light microscope with a working knowledge of the function of each part.

Identify the organelles within a eukaryotic cell and list the basic function of each.

Compare and contrast meiosis and mitosis, identifying the steps of each in microscopic images.

Outline what makes each epithelial, connective, nervous, and muscle tissue unique, where each is found within the body, and how each interacts with other tissue types.

Point out circulatory system features, including intercalated disks and valves, as well as the differences among different vessel types.

Identify the cells found in blood and the role of each.

Define how the tissues and anatomical features that make up the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems come together structurally to support the function of these organ systems.

Identify the features of the epidermis and dermis of the skin, including the cells, layers, glands, and other features of each layer.

Explain how the structural arrangement of the lymphatic system and lymph node supports its physiological role of filtering.

Compare and contrast the structural arrangement of spongy and compact bone.

Map out the path of plasma filtrate as it moves through the neuron and into the ureter, bladder, and urethra, identifying what types of cells are located in each part.

Describe the basic structure of endocrine organs, including the reproductive organs.

Identify what features make special senses tissue unique.



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MOOC List is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Free Course
Have completed Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology and Introduction to Evolutionary Biology and Ecology.

MOOC List is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.