Histology: Using Microscopy to Study Anatomy and Identify Disease

Get an introduction to histology – the study of anatomy at a microscopic level – and use histopathology to identify disease.

Histology: Using Microscopy to Study Anatomy and Identify Disease

  • Duration 4 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $44 Find out more

Examine tissues and identify disease with histology and histopathology

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 online course introduces the field. It starts with the basic principles of light microscopy, before focussing on the structure and function of human tissues, and the relationships between them.

You’ll use a virtual microscope to compare normal tissues with pathological (or diseased) ones, and use histopathology to identify and diagnose each disease.

The course was produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 secondsPROFESSOR: A career in histology and histopathology is rewarding, complex, and important. It's used in biomedical research laboratories such as this one. It's also used in hospital laboratories for the diagnosis of disease. But some of you may be wondering what histology and histopathology actually is. Well, it's the study of tissues and diseases underneath the microscope.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsNARRATOR: This course will explain how to use a microscope, identify different tissues and some distinct pathological changes. The structure of a tissue is related to its function. Diseases produce characteristic changes in the appearance of a tissue. Much of the teaching is done through a virtual microscope, which gives you the feel and functions of the real thing. It draws on a large collection of sections collected from school, university, and hospital laboratories, so it's your gateway to a huge collection of quality slides, making this course a unique introduction to histology.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsPROFESSOR: Histology is taught in schools, both at GCSE and A-level. It's also taught in biological science departments at universities, and it's used in diagnostic laboratories in hospitals by people ranging from research technician right up to consultant histopathologist. This course will engage anyone who is interested in biomedical research or the diagnosis of disease. It will give you some insight into what it's like to work in a research laboratory such as this one, or a hospital diagnostic laboratory.

What topics will you cover?

  • An introduction to histology and the role or histopathology in diagnosis of disease
  • Development of skills in using a light microscope and understanding the potentials and limits of the instrument
  • Description of how histological slides are produced, stained and interpreted
  • Development of the ability to identify a number of cell types and tissues from their histological appearance
  • Description of the structures of a number of tissues with relationship to their functions
  • Description of some major pathological changes and their histological appearance
  • Development of the ability to identify histopathological changes and their relationship to the underlying disease processes

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available nowThis course started 6 Jan 2020

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Apply and understand the basic principles of microscopy
  • Identify a number of the more common tissues from their histological appearance
  • Assess and understand the relationship between the structure of some tissues seen under the microscope and their function
  • Identify gross histological abnormalities, such as neurodegeneration, inflammation and cancer

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for medical laboratory scientists, and students who are studying human biology at university or school.

What software or tools do you need?

You’ll use a virtual microscope that will work on all modern browsers on both desktops and tablets. But we recommend completing the course on a desktop, so that you can see the tissues more clearly, and have course articles, images and videos open in different windows.

Who will you learn with?

David Male

David Male

I have been Professor of Biology at the OU since 1999, with a particular interest in the use of multimedia for teaching biomedical sciences. We research on nanocarriers for drug delivery to the brain.

Who developed the course?

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established1969
  • LocationMilton Keynes, UK
  • World rankingTop 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020


Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 6 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$249 $199 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.
Available until . T&Cs apply.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: