Histologists aren’t the most well-known kind of medical practitioner, but the fact is that they play a vital role in the detection and study of different diseases.
What is histology
In order to understand what the practitioner is, it is important to understand what the practice is. The word “histology” comes from the Greek words “histo”, meaning “tissue”, and “logia”, meaning a branch of learning. In line with this etymology, histology is the study of tissues, organs, and other biological cells in fine detail using microscopes, in order to discern the microscopic structures of tissues as well as the links between different types of cells and tissues found in plants and animals.
Study of tissues involves using special staining techniques, or “histological techniques”, as well as light and electron microscopy. The samples, cut into thin slices called “sections”, are stained or colored in order to highlight certain types of biological structures from the other structures that surround it, and are then examined under light or electron microscopes.
Histologist field of expertise
A patient’s tissue samples may be finely examined in order for medical experts to understand the causes and nature of the patient’s condition, which will then aid in determining the best plan of treatment or management for the condition.
Students often learn about the microstructures of biological tissue from histological slides.
Forensic histology is used to help find the cause of a sudden or unexpected death, as well as in other areas of forensic science
Microscopic study of biological cells and tissues found in an archaeological site can uncover historic facts.
Who are histologists
According to the National Society of Histotechnology, histologists need to be detail-oriented, meticulous and accurate, and work well under pressure. Histologists are people who have acquired the skills needed to process biological tissue in a histological laboratory.
It is vital to note that the skills needed to analyze and interpret the data on the slides are different from the skills needed to prepare the slides. Histologists are those who use their skills and precision to prepare high-quality samples for microscopy, while pathologists are those who study the resulting slides. Pathologists are physicians who specialize in interpreting observations on human biological microstructures.
What does a histologist do
The histopathology department receives tissue samples, taken at operations, outpatient procedures, or at post-mortems. These samples are usually in fixative solutions, in order to preserve them and ensure that once they are studied, they closely resemble the state they were in when still within the patient.
A histologist then processes the samples into paraffin wax blocks and cuts them into sections and stains them with carefully-selected histology stains to identify a specific tissue component, and then mounts them onto slides for microscopic examination.
How to become a histologist
Aspiring histologists are recommended to take a high school course load that focuses on math and science, such as chemistry and biology. Most histologist then go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in a life science, or in medical technology.