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The Open University

Histology, microscopy, anatomy and disease

The Open University via OpenLearn


Histology is a key part of modern medicine – it helps us study cells and tissues at a microscopic level, and accurately diagnose diseases such as cancer.This free course, Histology, microscopy, anatomy and disease, will help you understand the basic principles of light microscopy, before introducing you to histology, concentrating on the structure, function and relationship of normal human tissues.As part of the course you will use a virtual microscope, enabling you to compare normal tissues with pathological (or diseased) tissues, and find out how pathologists use histopathology to examine tissues at a microscopic level and identify disease.You will be making extensive use of the virtual microscope. It will work on all modern browsers on both desktops and tablets. However, it is recommended that you complete the course on a desktop for better viewing of the sections and to enable integration of microscopy with the course text, images and videos in separate windows.This course is designed for students studying human biology at school or university, medical laboratory scientists and anyone who is interested in biomedical science.By enrolling on this course you can track your progress in your My OpenLearn profile and earn a free Open University statement of participation on completion.This course is also available to study on FutureLearn where you will have the opportunity to purchase a FutureLearn certification on completion.This OpenLearn science course is produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education, the educational arm of The Exilarch's Foundation.The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations of the course. We welcome your feedback and suggestions to improve the experience for other learners.


  • Week1Week 1: Histology
  • Introduction
  • 1 What is histology?
  • 1.1 A histology department in action
  • 1.2 How histological slides are produced
  • 1.3 Staining techniques
  • 1.4 Immunohistochemistry
  • 1.5 Cells and tissues
  • 2 Using a light microscope
  • 2.1 Basic functions of the virtual microscope
  • 2.2 Normal blood smear
  • 2.3 Malaria
  • 2.4 Considerations for interpreting sections
  • 3 Measurements on the microscope
  • 3.1 Observing different types of leukocyte
  • 3.2 An example cell count
  • 3.3 Acute myeloid leukaemia
  • 3.4 Identify an abnormality – part I
  • 3.5 Identify an abnormality – part II
  • 4 This week’s quiz
  • 5 Summary of Week 1
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week2Week 2: Tissues and cells
  • Introduction
  • 1 Identifying cell types within tissues
  • 1.1 Recognising common cell types
  • 1.2 Histology of the skin
  • 1.3 Skin sections
  • 1.4 Histology of the gut
  • 1.5 Epithelium in the gut
  • 1.6 How the virtual microscope images were produced
  • 2 Identifying tissues
  • 2.1 Introduction to different tissues
  • 2.2 Structure of a lymph node
  • 2.3 Immunohistochemistry
  • 2.4 Immunohistochemistry technique
  • 2.5 Using IHC to identify B cells and T cells
  • 3 Putting it into practice
  • 4 Summary of Week 2
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week3Week 3: Tissue structure and function
  • Introduction
  • 1 Functions of tissues
  • 1.1 Structure–function relationships
  • 2 Tissue structure and functions
  • 2.1 Secretion: functions of the breast
  • 2.2 Movement: functions of muscle
  • 2.3 Structure and strength: functions of bone and cartilage
  • 2.4 Excretion: functions of the kidney
  • 2.5 Histology of the kidney
  • 2.6 Communication: functions of the nervous system
  • 2.7 Normal tissues
  • 3 This week’s quiz
  • 4 Summary of Week 3
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Week4Week 4: Recognising disease
  • Introduction
  • 1 Infection and inflammation
  • 1.1 Infection
  • 1.2 Inflammation
  • 1.3 Histopathology for the diagnosis of disease
  • 1.4 Infection
  • 1.5 Identify an infection
  • 2 Cell death and degeneration
  • 2.1 Cell death in the CNS
  • 2.2 Histopathology of the nervous system
  • 3 Tumours
  • 3.1 Metastasis
  • 3.2 Neoplasia and hyperplasia
  • 3.3 Put it into practice
  • 4 End-of-course quiz
  • 5 End-of-course summary
  • Tell us what you think
  • Acknowledgements


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4.7 rating at OpenLearn based on 14 ratings

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  • As someone who is going to join medical school soon , I see this course as very brief revision of histology and pathology. This course is not just limited to answer what you read but also provide how to apply what you read in case studies.

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