Epithelial Cells: What Are They?

On the surface of your entire body, there is a special type of cell that is meant to protect you from mechanical, chemical, and pathological harm. These cells are called epithelial cells and there are many types. The three main shapes that an epithelial cell can be are squamous, cuboidal, and columnar.

Squamous cells are shaped like a flattened disc, similar to a frisbee. These cells are usually located in areas of abrasion or transport based on how many layers there are. Cuboidal epithelial tissue is a square-shaped epithelial cell. These cells provide a moderate amount of protection from abrasion and are usually found in areas where secretion happens like the mammary glands. Finally, the last shape is columnar. Columnar epithelial cells are rectangular in shape and their height is longer than their width. These cells are found in areas where absorption and secretions occur such as your stomach. They provide the maximum amount of protection for a cell.

The other way of identifying epithelial cells is by the number of cells in an area. These classifications are called simple and stratified. Simple epithelial tissues are tissues that are only one cell thick. These types of cells will be in areas such as the lungs where diffusion can take place easily. Stratified epithelium is cells that are two or more cells thick. They are located everywhere else in the body and can have a multitude of functions such as protection and secretion.

Epithelial cells are not just for protection, however. These cells create glands that produce sweat and other products. They are even in the membranes that surround your organs. They may seem like they have small importance in your body but, without them, we would not last a few minutes alive.

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I am a Biology Major attending Arcadia University. I started the company My Biology Experience in hopes to connect the Biology community on a closer level.

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