Question about identifying epithelial cells in tissue specimens

Q. Some of the cells in the stratified squamous epithelium on slide 53 look thicker and almost cuboidal while cells of stratified cuboidal epithelium on slide 54 are almost squished like squamous (especially around the folds in the lining), making them hard for me to distinguish them if I were to be asked without context of where they’re from. What is the typical process in distinguishing the epithelium type of real tissue specimens?

A. I totally get that! It can be really hard when you’re looking at these specimens for the first time; I remember feeling like I could tell what was what if it was pointed out to me – but if I had a slide without arrows, I felt lost.

I think that telling these types of epithelium apart – like many of the new things you’ll be looking at in this course – just becomes easier over time. We’ll see lots of examples of epithelia in all the different organ systems we go through – and you’ll soon get the hang of identifying different types of epithelium (squamous vs. columnar vs. cuboidal; simple vs. stratified), and pretty soon you won’t even have to think about it 🙂

I won’t be showing you pictures on the exam – so you don’t need to worry about being able to identify structures in actual images. I may ask you what a squamous cell looks like – but a lot of my exam questions are related more to the functions of these structures (e.g., what is the function of the zonula occludens and how is the zonula adherens different?) I’ll post some exam questions soon, so you guys can get used to my style of questions.

Back to your questions on the images – I made some notations to show you how I would know that the cells are squamous vs. cuboidal. Here is slide 53 with some comments (if you click on an image, it pops up in a larger format):

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