Histology is a branch of anatomy that deals with the study structure of animal and plant tissues that is only discernible with a microscope. It is also called microscopic anatomy, as opposed to gross anatomy, which involves structures that can be observed with the naked eye. The word “histology” is derived from two Greek words: histo, which means “tissue,” and logos, which means “study.”
Histopathology, the microscopic study of diseased tissue, is an important tool used in anatomical pathology, as accurate diagnosis of cancer and other diseases usually requires histopathological examination of samples.
Histological studies are often carried out by examining a thin slice (called a “section”) of tissue under a light microscope or an electron microscope on a prepared slide.
In order to distinguish different biological structures more easily and accurately, histological stains are often used to add colors to, or enhance the colors of, certain types of biological structures to allow them to be more easily differentiated from other types of structures. Staining is employed because biological tissue has little inherent contrast when observed using either light or electron microscopes.
Trained physicians, frequently licensed clinical pathologists, are the personnel who actually perform histopathological examinations and provide diagnostic information based on their observations of the tissues being tested.
The trained personnel who prepare histological specimens for examination may go by a number of titles, including:
- Histology technician (HT)
- Histology technologists (HTL)
- Medical scientists
- Medical laboratory technician
- Biomedical scientist
Their field of study is called histotechnology.
Histology has seen recent changes as technological advances in automation have influenced the field. Automation allows for the reduction of the workload of manual task needed to prepare and track histology specimens. Artificial intelligence also is playing a growing role in supporting the analysis of sections, supporting anatomic pathologists during their examinations of samples.
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