Before plunging into the histology techniques required for skin samples, reviewing skin morphology will provide essential information that will be used throughout the entire histology process.
In the laboratory, histotechnologists must have a general understanding of skin morphology in order to make sound decisions that assist in the diagnosis. During embedding, skin layers must be identified in order to properly secure the skin in paraffin. During the sectioning process, it is helpful to recognize which direction the hair or epidermis is facing in order to obtain the best sections. Finally, during the staining process, the skin layers and cells must be identified in order to confidently ensure the quality of the stained slides.
Since the majority of skin pathology occurs in the dermal-epidermal junction (the top two skin layers), distinguishing and maintaining the integrity of these skin layers is of critical importance.
The following page describes the various cells and structures that make up the layers of human skin. The hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining section of this course will take a closer look at the individual cells and structures that can be seen with the microscope.