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Glandular epithelium

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Understand the function and classification of glandular epithelia.
  2. Identify intraepithelial glands in histological sections.
  3. Describe how glands are categorized in the human body.

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Glandular epithelia are specialized epithelial cells. Their primary function is the production and secretion of secretory products, such as saliva or mucus. Glands can be differentiated into exocrine and endocrine glands according to the presence or absence of ducts. Exocrine glands release their secretions onto surfaces via ducts. Endocrine glands secrete directly into their surroundings, causing the secretions to enter the bloodstream.

There is a variety of glands in the human body, which is why they are categorized according to the following:

  • the mechanism and nature of secretion,
  • the location of the glands in relation to the surface epithelium,
  • the shape of the gland and
  • their function.

Intraepithelial glands, for example, lie in the surface epithelium and can occur singly or in groups. Individual glands include goblet cells, which are found in the digestive and respiratory tracts. They are of great importance, as they secrete a thick mucus (mucin) that protects the surface epithelium.

Watch the following video to learn more about intraepithelial glands and their function:

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You can view all of the abovementioned structures in the following image gallery:

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