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Medical Histology and Virtual Microscopy Learning Resources

The University of Michigan Medical School

Course Introduction

General Information

By the end of the year, we hope that you have acquired a reasonable working knowledge of:

  1. how cells associate to perform the functions for which they are specialized, and
  2. how organized groups of cells (tissues) are arranged to form the organ systems of the body.

While the emphasis in histology is on the structure of cells, tissues and organs, structure has very little meaning without understanding the function, much of which is also presented in the other components of the curriculum. There is an emphasis to teach comparable subjects at about the same time, and we ask that you try and correlate structure and function. Most diseases cause structural abnormalities that result in the problems with which you, as a physician, must contend. One reason for studying histology (the normal structure) is so that you can better understand a pathological (abnormal) change and the consequences of that change.

You will be spending most of your time studying two dimensional sections of three dimensional structures, and will encounter a number of atypical perspectives caused by the plane of section (Imagine that you are sectioning an orange in sagittal, parasagittal, equatorial and diagonal planes. The appearance of the orange sections is quite different depending upon the plane of section--the same variation in appearance occurs in tissue and organs because of the angle of sectioning). Try to find a typical perspective for your introduction to a new tissue or organ (use your atlas as a guide). Then try to imagine what it would look like in three dimensions.

Teaching Materials

You are expected to learn histology by studying the slides of tissues and organs (item C below) using virtual microscopy. The other items of materials, listed below and on the Medical Histology Website or C-Tools, should serve as the sources of information necessary for you to understand the functional significance of the structures that you view in the virtual images.

  1. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as atlas: Wheater's Functional Histology, 5th Ed., 2005.
  2. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as text: Histology: A Text and Atlas, 5th Ed., 2007 by Ross and Pawlina . (Your Laboratory Manual is keyed to these editions. However, an earlier edition may also be used. The 6th edition of Histology: A Text and Atlas will be published in the fall of 2010.)


Most lectures begin at 1:00 PM in West Lecture Hall, although some are scheduled in the morning. Please, consult your daily calendar for each lecture and laboratory hours. The lecture should serve as a study guide for each topic area. The lecture contents should also serve as a guide for the exam and quiz questions since lecturers formulate the majority of the question

s. Most of the lecture slides (images) will be placed in the Histology resource pages on the web for you to view after lecture. It would be very useful to read the relevant text chapter before lecture.


Histology is one of the few basic science courses left in the curriculum with a regularly scheduled laboratory. This provides you with an opportunity for "active" independent learning and also for interaction with faculty. As you progress through the course, we would appreciate your comments regarding things that are unclear, or that are particularly helpful in the lab guide, as we revise it every year. Bring your histology atlas and computer to the lab. The teaching laboratories we use are also microbiology laboratories, so no eating or drinking in the labs. We plan to have the histology labs open 24-7, unless items disappear or there are other problems.

Examinations And Grading

You should expect to be asked 8-10 quiz/exam questions per histology session, typically divided equally between the on-line weekly quizzes and the sequence final exams (i.e. ~4 questions per session on the weekly quiz and ~4 questions per session ont the sequence final exam). All of the questions will be multiple choice and may be either text- or image-based ("still" jpegs or moveable virtual slides). The quiz and exam questions will weigh equally. The details of the exam type and format will be announced at the beginning of each sequence.

Problems and Administration

If you have a histology problem, see the faculty member responsible for your laboratory section or the course director. You can also email one of your lab teachers or Dr. Hortsch with Histology questions. A list of the course faculty with relevant information can be found in the Faculty Contact section of the course.

For website, sever, or other technical problems please contact the LRC Help Desk

Introduction to the Lab

Electron Micrographs: Electron micrograph wall charts in the hall and digital EM images on the webpage are for the most part, micrographs provided by Dr. Johannes A. G. Rhodin, who also authored "An Atlas of Histology" (Oxford Press, 1974). Thus, many of the electron micrographs are also found in this atlas. However, Rhodin's atlas is out of print and not required. Remember that the material contained herein is copyrighted, and it is intended to be used by histology students only. Duplication or distribution is prohibited by federal law. More detailed comments on electron micrographs appear at the end of the Epithelia section (the first lesson in this laboratory guide).