2 March 2013 by Stewart Chew-
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous and how well I know it. Ps 139: 13, 14 (NLT)
The human body is truly amazing! We are magnificently created. Modern science and medicine have revealed the intricacies and complexities of our body and shown how our body organs and systems, so different in themselves, are wonderfully integrated together to work perfectly as one individual healthy human being.
It is possible to examine the fine details of human structure with a microscope. The study of living basic units of our body concerns a branch of medical science called histology. The basic principle of histology very simply states, “Structure follows Function” i.e. the “shape” of the cell is directly related to its “function’, or in simple terms “it is shaped like this to work like this”.
Microscopic cells make up the tissues, which in turn form organs of the various systems of the human body. Despite being so complex, the entire human body is made up of only four types of tissues namely epithelium, muscle tissue, connective tissue and nervous tissue (Reference 1). Epithelium or epithelial tissue, which lines the external surfaces of the body and passages inside the body, gives the most information about the natural function and health of organs it protects. Frequently, medical pathologists and scientific researchers examine for any slight changes in appearance of the surface epithelium of organs in the study of diseases. Epithelial alterations may be direct manifestations of the influences of a continuing disease process or processes against the human organism.
Two main types of epithelium exist in all organs of our body – simple epithelium and stratified epithelium. Simple epithelium is defined as one-cell epithelial layer. Being thin, it functions to absorb air/ water/ nutrients effectively through the thin epithelial layer. Thus, simple squamous epithelium lines the air sacs of lungs. Similarly, simple columnar epithelium lines the digestive canal from the stomach right down to the rectum. The ano-rectal canal, which forms the terminal segment of the digestive canal, is also lined by thin simple epithelium except for the short anal end. Stratified epithelium has many cell layers stacked together to form a thick, protective and durable barrier. It efficiently protects the body against abrasion by shedding off its surface layers (exfoliation). The cells of its deeper layers rapidly divide and these new cells restore the thickness of the epithelial barrier. Thus, stratified epithelium protects all parts of the external and internal body surfaces subjected to much abrasive wear such as the external skin and surfaces of lips, tongue, mouth and throat. The female vaginal canal is also lined by a thick stratified epithelium of at least twenty-five cells thick.
Although the anatomical dimensions of the vaginal canal is comparable to that of the ano-rectal canal, its surface histology is alarmingly different. Whereas the entire length of the vaginal canal is suitably lined by thick moist stratified epithelium, the ano-rectal canal (except for the anal portion of 1.5 centimeters) is completely lined by simple columnar epithelium which is very much like the epithelium that lines the digestive tract. This type of lining epithelium is inadequate protection against constant abrasion resulting in the severe damage of the underlying tissues and fine blood vessels. Whereas the vaginal canal is constructed with the “right” protective epithelium suitable for sexual intercourse, the ano-rectal canal absolutely has not. Abuse of the latter most definitely results in drastic ano-rectal traumatizations, haemorrhaging and infections. Besides its insufficient thin epithelium to abrasion, there are also present in the ano-rectal canal, peculiar structures that are essential to its function in defecation. These include anal columns, valves and sinuses and the ano-rectal canal’s unique hemorrhoidal blood supply (Reference 2). These structures are obviously vulnerable in ano-rectal intercourse but the extent of their damage remains uncertain as, unfortunately, very little is known on this subject.
Fortunately, we can be quite clear on one thing – what histology has taught us about the capabilities of our own body. We know that our organs must be covered with the right type of epithelium to do the right corresponding function. Whether we meant it or not we cannot expect our bodies to do otherwise without reaping the resulting drastic consequences.
Science and Christianity have agreed on this subject. Science has provided a reason for Christian belief. We can certainly learn the truth by knowing the histological functions of our own bodies. Epithelium does not lie!
Note: Stewart Chew is a retired senior lecturer in School of Medical Sciences, Curtin University in Perth, Australia
Disclaimer: The views or opinions expressed by the columnists are solely their own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Christianity Malaysia.com
1. MH Ross, GI Kaye & W Pawlina “Histology: text and atlas” 4th edition Williams & Wilkins (2003).
2 SS Sternberg “Histology for Pathologists” Raven Press. ….. New York (1992).
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