Serous Membrane: Definition & Function

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  • 0:03 What is a Serous Membrane?
  • 1:35 The Function of a…
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Your body has an unsung hero called the serous membrane. This lesson defines a serous membrane and explains precisely why it helps keep you alive on a daily basis!

What Is a Serous Membrane?

Did you know your body has a funny and sort of a grim side to it? Yep, it's completely true. This is because you've got a funny bone and you've got very serous membranes. We'll be discussing the definition and function of a serous membrane in this lesson.

A serous membrane, also called serosa, is a layer of tissue that wraps around organs and helps lubricate them so they don't get rubbed raw. It's made up of a simple squamous epithelium (called the mesothelium) overlying a layer of connective tissue. Simple squamous means the cells that make up this layer look flat, like pancakes.

Serous membranes have two parts. If you have a large balloon by any chance, you can better understand how this is possible. Go ahead and fill that balloon partially with water or some air. Next, make a fist and jam it into the balloon. That fist represents organs within a body cavity, the balloon.

Notice how there are two layers to the balloon now, with the outer one essentially folding in on itself around the inner one. These are like the two layers of serous membranes. The layer that touches your fist is like the serous layer enveloping an organ. This is called the visceral layer. 'Viscera' is a word that denotes internal organs, namely those found within the thoracic (chest) and abdominal cavities. The other layer, the one on the outside of the balloon, is called the parietal layer. This is the layer that lines the inner wall of the body cavity.

The Function of a Serous Membrane

The function of a serous membrane is to secrete a lubricant, appropriately called serous fluid. Why? Well, imagine rubbing your dry hands together over and over again. What would happen? First, they would heat up due to friction. Then, they would start to turn red. The more you keep doing this, the more painful it will become. Not long after (and please don't actually do this), you'll notice the skin begins to shred and break apart due to all the friction. Had you used a little lubrication prior to rubbing your hands together, this wouldn't have happened.

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