Anatomy: Definition, Types, and Examples

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Anatomy Definition

Anatomy is the study of an organism’s bodily structure. It is a field of biology concerned with the bodily structure of living organisms. There are two types of anatomy: gross anatomy (or macroscopic anatomy) and microscopic anatomy.

Etymology: from Latin anatomia, from Ancient Greek *v (*anatoma): (aná), which means “up,” and (témn), which means “I cut” or “I incise.”

What is Anatomy?

When studying the body and how it functions, we frequently hear the phrase “anatomy.” Anatomy is a biological area of science that deals with the structure and identification of organisms’ bodies and their many parts.

Though the term “anatomy of the body” is commonly used to people and human bodily parts, it actually refers to all living creatures. Gross or macroscopic anatomy and microscopic anatomy are the two divisions of this study of bodily structure.

History of Anatomy

Humans are inquisitive creatures that have always been fascinated by how bodies are made and created. Caves have been uncovered with anatomical structures, hyroglifics, and drawings dating back to 750000 BCE.

Despite the simplicity of the drawings of what was seen, these revealed proof that the early human had a reasonably extensive understanding of the anatomy of the human body. It has also been established that people began to undertake minor “medical” treatments as early as the Paleolithic Period.

A tiny hole was drilled into the skull of a person who may have had mental problems. Despite the fact that the logic behind the treatments was not necessarily scientific, some of the people who experienced them lived and demonstrated a breakthrough in this field of medicine.

Fast forward to the Ancient Romans, who learned more about anatomy by treating their injured gladiators. However, because dissection of human bodies was prohibited, this could only be done in secret. As a result, the Romans relied on animal anatomy and bodies to compare and contrast their results with those of humans.

Galen, a researcher and experimentalist, became a practising physician at this time. He researched macroscopic anatomy, the majority of which involved animal dissections. The discoveries he discovered would have a long-term impact.

Anatomy charts and drawings by famous painters such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Rembrandt van Rijn first appeared during the Renaissance period. Some of the foundations for current anatomical drawings and human body diagrams of the organ systems of the body were laid by these painters.

After dissecting portions of human beings, the artists collaborated with scientists to create anatomically correct drawings. Andreas Vesalius, who contributed significantly to anatomy via his continual study of dissected individuals and work on the first-ever book on human anatomy, livThe discoveries he discovered would have a long-term impact.

Numerous anatomists and physicians contributed to the development of modern anatomy and the growth of medical knowledge from the 17th to the 20th century. Until that moment, scientists who sought to research human internal organs and systems using cadavers or dissecting living individuals were discriminated against.

Abraham Flexner’s famous paper from the twentieth century emphasised the necessity of medical research using body parts and how dissections help with fundamental medical education and training. This aided in the normalisation of anatomy and the advancement of medical discoveries as we know them today.

Important Figures of Anatomy

Biology fields are frequently becoming more diversified as a result of study conducted by a large number of scientists, physicians, and medical researchers who probe deeper into those topics. An anatomist or a specialist in anatomy may do research on the whole body or particular regions.

Many past anatomists have influenced what we now refer to as anatomy. Between 1578 and 1657, William Harvey was an English physician. He is most recognised for being King James I’s official physician and for inventing the circulatory system. Though others had theorised a system for pumping blood across the body before Harvey, Harvey verified these hypotheses with arguments and tests.

Harvey calculated the amount of blood that would travel through the human body organs in a particular interval using the volume. Blood had to be circulated since the body couldn’t generate vast amounts of it all at once. He also looked at the heartbeat and how it functioned as a pump to circulate blood throughout the body.

Harvey’s study attracted a lot of criticism once it was published in a medical magazine in 1649, but it was finally accepted. Andreas Vesalius is another well-known anatomist. He researched and thoroughly detailed human anatomy and physiology in Greece until he was 50 years old.

Vesalius spent most of his time after obtaining his degree dissecting and studying cadavers. Andreas became so enthralled by this that he began to follow a study regimen that included performing dissections and meticulously studying ancient scientific texts.

He also observed that many colleges’ Galenic anatomy was based on animal anatomy rather than human body systems. This was probably owing to the prohibition of human dissection in the past. This finding influenced his decision to publish Fabrica, one of the earliest anatomical textbooks, in 1543.

Paul Broca, a French anthropologist and pathologist, investigated brain injuries that helped contemporary biology better comprehend cranial processes. In 1861, he discovered what is now known as the Broca convolution, a section of the left frontal lobe of the brain that aids in speech articulation.

He was also the first to show that various regions of the brain were linked to certain roles in the human body’s systems. Comparative anatomy and palaeontology were founded by Georges Cuvier. His work as a tutor on the study of marine invertebrates was forwarded to the Museum of Natural History in Paris, where he was invited to join their staff.

He was the first to divide animals into groups based on their internal organ systems. This threw apart the traditional anatomical arrangement that had been in use before to the 18th century, allowing others to investigate why animals are physically diverse. All of these and more contributed to Curvier’s development of palaeontology as a science.

Gross Anatomy

Gross anatomy is one of the divisions of anatomy. On a macroscopic level, this is the study of anatomy that can be seen with the naked eye. Cytology and histology are enhanced by gross anatomy. Histology is the study of tissues and their architecture, whereas cytology is the study of cells as the earliest fundamental unit of life.

Because gross anatomy covers the development of each feature of an organism’s body part, it frequently goes hand in hand with growth and development. Surface, regional, and systemic anatomy are subsets of macroscopic anatomy. These are concerned with the exterior of the body, bodily regions, and particular body systems, respectively.

We don’t need to dissect anything to understand and observe surface anatomy. This category examines the exterior body shape and what it accomplishes to allow the body to operate while safeguarding interior components.

Regional anatomy examines distinct parts of the body and how they interact to perform a variety of tasks. The gastrointestinal system and the circulatory system are two of the eleven (11) bodily systems that are discussed while discussing systemic anatomy.

Microscopic Anatomy

The study of the structure of creatures at a microscopic level is known as microscopic anatomy. Microscopic anatomy and histology are sometimes used interchangeably, although this is erroneous since microscopic anatomy encompasses both histology and cytology.

Histology is the study of how cells, which are the body’s building blocks, grow from cells to tissues to organs and organ systems. These several stages of development come together to form a live being. Microscopic anatomy, on the other hand, is limited to tissues and smaller entities since they are the only ones that fit under the microscope.

Other Branches of Anatomy

There are several disciplines of anatomy in addition to macroscopic and microscopic anatomy. Embryology, developmental anatomy, radiographic anatomy, and pathological anatomy are the five primary ones.

Embryology is the study of an animal’s embryo, as the name suggests. An embryo exists from the moment the egg is fertilised until the eighth week of an organism’s existence. It examines the cell development, division, and gastrulation of the organism. It is frequently regarded as the foundation for understanding how nervous systems and other vital components of animals form and operate. This research has also aided in the study of stem cells and how they link to cancer in recent years.

Developmental anatomy is a broader and lengthier field of study than embryology, including everything from conception through adulthood. As it focuses on all parts of the bodily shape, this study brings the significance of anatomy into perspective. It is a closer examination of how the organism’s body will change throughout time.

Radiographic anatomy is the study of the body and all of its systems and organs using radiography in the form of x-rays. Radiographs or computed tomography (CT) scans can be used. These convert the three-dimensional shape of the body into a two-dimensional image, allowing a radiologist or medical expert to examine the systems in real time.

Pathological anatomy is the study of anatomy as it is changed by illness. Through microscopic analysis of samples from biological fluids, tissues, organs, and even the complete body or corpse, this research aids in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of illnesses.

Human Anatomy

For obvious reasons, this is the branch of anatomy that is most popular across the world. As humans, we are constantly interested in learning more about how our bodies operate and function. However, you must first understand the structure or shape of the body before you can understand how the various bodily components function.

This is where the study of human anatomy comes into play. The human body’s organisation is a unique system in and of itself. We begin with the cell, which is the basic unit of the human body.

Cells unite to create tissues, which then combine to form organs, which then combine to form organ systems. The human body is made up of these 11 bodily systems. Every other bodily component is built up of cells, which are the smallest unit in the body.

The stem cell is the most basic form of cell, capable of developing into any sort of specialised cell required by the organism. The human body has approximately 200 different types of specialised cells, ranging from reproductive cells that aid in the production of children to red blood cells that transport oxygenated and deoxygenated blood throughout the body.

Tissues are collections of cells with similar functions that join together to operate as a unit. Epithelial, muscular, connective, and nerve tissues are the four basic kinds of tissues. The primary tissues of the glands, epithelial tissues, serve a variety of activities, including absorption, secretion, and filtration.

Connective tissues link structures together, forming a strong support system and providing disease protection. Muscle tissues are tissues that are specifically developed to aid in the movement of the body. These include the cardiac tissues that allow blood to be circulated around the body by contracting and relaxing the heart. Nervous tissues make up the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. These are in charge of regulating the body’s functioning, which includes coordination.

Organs are formed when numerous different types of cells and tissues join together. Organs are structures that carry out specialised tasks. The lung’s job is to help blood cells receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide by facilitating gas exchange.

Among other things, the skin acts as a barrier against intruders, protects against temperature fluctuations, and regulates temperature. Organ systems are formed when these organs operate together with other organs. There are eleven (11) organ systems in all. These systems are exemplified by the following:

The cardiovascular system (circulatory system), the digestive system (GI tract), the endocrine system, the integumentary system, the lymphatic system, the muscular system, the nervous system, the skeletal system, the reproductive system, the respiratory system, and the urinary system are all interconnected.

Each of these relates to the anatomy and physiology of the body in its unique manner. The immune system is a biological system that overlaps with another system, the lymphatic system in particular.

Anatomical Nomenclature

Over time, a distinct manner of referring to different things and places in an organism’s body emerged as the branch of anatomy progressed. This is known as anatomical nomenclature, and it is used by both scientists and clinicians. Only the Latin version of this nomenclature is officially accessible.

Anatomical nomenclature was developed because words like “up” and “down” may be misleading when referring to the human body, depending on the location of the body. As a result, academics and medical professionals will be able to follow along while another individual describes the position of a physical component.

The typical anatomical stance is for a human to stand straight on both legs, facing forward with hands pointing front. Many objects may be defined using anatomical nomenclature in this conventional position, such as superior meaning towards the head or inferior meaning towards the feet.

For example, one may remark that the heart is posterior to the sternum, implying that the heart is physically ‘behind’ the sternum. Also, referring to the hand as a part of the superior extremity implies that it is a part of the upper body (i.e., upper limb), despite the fact that it is towards the end of the upper limb.

The multiple anatomical planes are depicted in the diagram below. An anatomical plane is a hypothetical plane that is used to represent the position of a biological component. It can also be used to describe the direction of anatomical movement. The coronal (frontal) plane, the axial (horizontal or transverse) plane, the sagittal (or longitudinal) plane, the median plane, and the parasagittal plane are some examples of planes.

Anatomy Citations
  • Anatomy, histology and immunohistochemistry of normal human skin. Eur J Dermatol . Jul-Aug 2002;12(4):390-9; quiz 400-1.
  • omparative anatomy and physiology of the skin. Arch Dermatol . 1967 Oct;96(4):357-63.
  • The cerebellum and cognitive function: 25 years of insight from anatomy and neuroimaging. Neuron . 2013 Oct 30;80(3):807-15.
  • What is the real cardiac anatomy? Clin Anat . 2019 Apr;32(3):288-309.
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