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Organ system histology
Adrenal gland histology
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The left gland has a semilunar shape and the right gland is flattened and more triangular in appearance.
The adrenal glands are covered by a capsule made of thick connective tissue.
The parenchymal tissue has two main regions, the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla.
The cortex is the large outer region of the adrenal gland.
The cortex can be further divided into three zones that each secrete a different class of steroid hormones.
Starting with the most superficial zone: the zona glomerulosa secretes mineralocorticoids, the zona fasciculata secretes primarily glucocorticoids, and the zona reticularis secretes primarily gonadocorticoids, or sex hormones.
The adrenal medulla is the region that’s most centrally located and visibly distinct from the cortex.
If we zoom in further, we can see some of the blood vessels of the adrenal gland.
Just outside of the capsule, there are small afferent blood vessels that are branches of the suprarenal arteries that supply blood to the adrenal gland.
And within the medulla, there are the large medullary veins that drain blood into the suprarenal veins.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the outermost layer of the adrenal cortex, the zona glomerulosa.
This layer is just beneath the capsule and comprises about 15 percent of the cortex.
The secretory cells are arranged in ovoid or glomerulus-like clusters that are separated by fibrous trabeculae that extends from the capsule.
The individual cells are either columnar or pyramidal with round nuclei, and a lipid-filled cytoplasm that gives the cytoplasm its pale “foamy” appearance.
Adrenal gland histology is the study of the microscopic structures of tissues of the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland is a small, triangular-shaped organ that sits on top of each kidney. It has two parts: the cortex and the medulla.
The cortex is made up of three layers: the zona glomerulosa, the zona fasciculata, and the zona reticularis. The medulla contains sympathetic nerve cells that release adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) into the bloodstream.
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