Epithelium // is one of the four basic types of animal tissue, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue. It is a thin, continuous, protective layer of compactly packed cells with a little intercellular matrix. Epithelial tissues line the outer surfaces of organs and blood vessels throughout the body, as well as the inner surfaces of cavities in many internal organs. An example is the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.
|Anatomical terms of microanatomy|
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|Squamous epithelial cell|
|Columnar epithelial cell|
|Cuboidal epithelial cell|
There are three principal shapes of epithelial cell: squamous, columnar, and cuboidal. These can be arranged in a single layer of cells as simple epithelium, either squamous, columnar, or cuboidal, or in layers of two or more cells deep as stratified (layered), or compound, either squamous, columnar or cuboidal. In some tissues, a layer of columnar cells may appear to be stratified due to the placement of the nuclei. This sort of tissue is called pseudostratified. All glands are made up of epithelial cells. Functions of epithelial cells include diffusion, filtration, secretion, selective absorption, germination, and transcellular transport. Compound epithelium has protective functions.
Epithelial layers contain no blood vessels (avascular), so they must receive nourishment via diffusion of substances from the underlying connective tissue, through the basement membrane. Cell junctions are especially abundant in epithelial tissues.