Functions of Transitional Epithelium Tissue

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  • 0:01 What Is Transitional…
  • 0:47 What Makes It Transitional?
  • 1:27 Why Is It Stratified?
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Phenix
In this lesson, you will learn what transitional epithelial cells are, where they are found, and how they are organized into transitional epithelial tissue. A short quiz will follow to test your knowledge.

What Is Transitional Epithelium?

The term 'transitional epithelium' is actually a really descriptive one and, by taking a moment to understand the term, you will get a really good idea of the basic function of these cells. By 'transitional,' we mean that these cells can undergo a structural change in their shape and composition, while 'epithelium' refers to their location. Epithelial cells are any cells that form a tissue lining of a space, such as the internal lining of an organ, blood vessel, or the outside space of your body; your skin, for instance, is a type of epithelium. Therefore, transitional epithelium cells are a very specific type of cells that line a space and can undergo a change in their shape and structure.

What Makes It Transitional?

Well, transitional epithelial tissue, made up of a stratified, multi-layered, collection of transitional epithelial cells, is a tissue that is capable of stretching and contracting to accommodate fluctuating volumes of fluid passing through the structures they line. Now, this may not seem like a big deal but, because of these cells, your urinary bladder, urethra (the canal urine exits the body through), and ureters (the tubes that bring urine from your kidneys to your bladder for storage) are able to expand.

This means that the tissue of your bladder can stretch to accommodate more fluids, which in turn, reduces the frequency with which you need to go to the bathroom.

Why Is It Stratified?

One reason transitional epithelium is stratified is for protection. Transitional epithelium is composed of about six layers of cells that vary in shape and size. One reason that there are so many layers is that the organs these cells line (the ureters and the urinary bladder) have highly acidic environments. Therefore, stratified tissue (tissue having more than one layer of cells) always has an underlying layer of cells ready to manage the harsh environment when the outer cells lining the lumen of your bladder, the cavity of the organ that fills with fluid, slough off or get damaged. To protect themselves against the acidic environment, these cells secrete a mucous coating and, as such, are referred to as the mucosa , or mucous-producing layer, of the bladder.

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