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Stratified Squamous Epithelium: Function & Location

Marian Fuchs, Wendy McDougal
  • Author
    Marian Fuchs

    Marian has a Bachelors degree in biology/chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She has 4 years of experience teaching biology, geology, and ecology, and English language to children ranging from kindergarten to high school seniors, as well as experience caring for and training marine mammals.

  • Instructor
    Wendy McDougal

    Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Understand what stratified squamous epithelium is. Learn its function throughout the human body is and discover more about its structure, types, and location. Updated: 03/21/2022

What is Stratified Squamous Epithelium?

The human body is composed of four different types of tissue: epithelial, connective, muscle, and nervous body tissues. The type of tissue we want to focus on is a type of epithelial tissue, stratified squamous epithelium tissue. So, what is stratified squamous epithelium? The stratified squamous epithelium description is that it is a type of tissue built out of flattened cells stacked together. There are several places where the stratified squamous epithelium is found in the body as it acts as a protective tissue.

In order to fully understand what stratified squamous epithelium tissue truly is, we must break it down. Epithelial tissue is what covers our entire body and all organs and body cavities. The tissue is composed of tightly packed cells because this epithelial tissue provides a highly protective and nearly impermeable layer of tissue.

The specific shape of the cells that make up epithelial tissues is referred to as squamous. Squamous cells are flat and easily packed together to make an impermeable layer of cells. Stratified refers to the way that the cells are packed together. Stratified cells are stacked and are in layers.

Compared to the three other categories of tissues, stratified squamous epithelium tissue is very different. It is a protective layer while the other three tissues have other roles in the body. Connective tissues work to connect as well as separate tissues and organs in the body. The body's activities are mainly controlled and coordinated by nervous tissue, which is only found in nerves, the spinal cord, and the brain. Cells that shorten and contract make up muscle tissue which allows for the movement of different body parts. All four tissue types are exceptionally important but are also very different in their roles in the body.

What Does Stratified Squamous Epithelium Look Like?

What does stratified squamous epithelium look like? What is the stratified squamous epithelium description? The stratified squamous epithelium histology includes stratified squamous epithelium stacked in at least two layers to protect different parts of the body. The squamous cells are flat and stack like bricks to provide a barrier to protect organs and other parts of the body.


Stratified Squamous Epithelium

Stratified Squamous Epithelium


What is Stratified Squamous Epithelium?

When you think of the word tissue, you most likely imagine a colorful box sitting on your counter that you reach for after you sneeze. However, in the world of science, 'tissue' tends to have an entirely different meaning. For example, you and I are made up of different types of tissue, but clearly not the kind in which you blow your nose. In our bodies, cells with common structures and functions group together to form what we know as body tissue.

Tissue in our bodies comes in four major types: epithelial, connective, muscle and nervous. In this lesson, we will examine one type that consists of flattened cells that are joined and stacked together, known as stratified squamous epithelium. This protective tissue can be found in several different locations in the body. Learn more as we closely examine this important layer.

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Stratified Squamous Epithelium Function

The general function of stratified squamous epithelium is to protect against outside contaminants or abrasion. There are two different types of stratified squamous epithelium: keratinized squamous epithelium and non keratinized stratified squamous epithelium. We will discuss these in more detail in the following sections.

Types of Stratified Squamous Epithelium

The key trait of epithelial cells is their function to act as a barrier. Different types of epithelial cells have different functions, different shaped cells, and different types of layers. When it comes to stratified squamous epithelial cells, the main trait is protection. The two different types of stratified squamous epithelial cells have slightly different roles in the body and are located in different locations around the body. The two types of epithelial cells are as follows:

  • Keratinized stratified squamous epithelium
  • Non keratinized stratified squamous epithelium

Keratinized stratified squamous epithelium cells are found where the tissue is exposed to abrasions and potential water loss (desiccation). You can find these cells covering the entire body and parts of the tongue and mouth. The keratinized stratified squamous epithelium consists of layers of dead squamous cells that are designed to repel water.

Structure of Stratified Squamous Epithelium

In order to better understand this tissue type, we first need to break down this somewhat long and scientific name. Let's first define epithelium. Epithelial tissue is made up of cells that are packed tightly together, forming one continuous sheet. Epithelium functions as both a cover and a lining for various parts of our body.

For example, epithelial tissue covers our bodies in the form of skin layers. Because the cells are stuck together so tightly, this tissue provides a mostly impermeable and highly protective barrier for our bodies. Epithelial tissue also lines some internal cavities and organs. This sheet of epithelial cells provides a smooth and continuous lining for these areas.

Now let's look at the word squamous, which defines the shape of the actual cells that make up the tissue. Squamous means that the cells are flattened. You can think of them as being squashed. Let's visualize this concept. Imagine taking a bag of soft fruit candies and squashing each one flat. You then stick them together side-by-side and end-to-end. This is a visual representation of a single sheet of squamous epithelium.

We are almost finished defining our long scientific term. We now have sheets of flattened cells that are packed closely together. So how does the word 'stratified' change our tissue? Stratified means that the cells are not only in one layer, but are stacked. Think of the word strata, meaning layered. Adding to our visual, you can take another bag of fruit candy, squash them, stick them closely together, and then stack that sheet onto your original. You now have a complete representation of stratified squamous epithelium.

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Video Transcript

What is Stratified Squamous Epithelium?

When you think of the word tissue, you most likely imagine a colorful box sitting on your counter that you reach for after you sneeze. However, in the world of science, 'tissue' tends to have an entirely different meaning. For example, you and I are made up of different types of tissue, but clearly not the kind in which you blow your nose. In our bodies, cells with common structures and functions group together to form what we know as body tissue.

Tissue in our bodies comes in four major types: epithelial, connective, muscle and nervous. In this lesson, we will examine one type that consists of flattened cells that are joined and stacked together, known as stratified squamous epithelium. This protective tissue can be found in several different locations in the body. Learn more as we closely examine this important layer.

Structure of Stratified Squamous Epithelium

In order to better understand this tissue type, we first need to break down this somewhat long and scientific name. Let's first define epithelium. Epithelial tissue is made up of cells that are packed tightly together, forming one continuous sheet. Epithelium functions as both a cover and a lining for various parts of our body.

For example, epithelial tissue covers our bodies in the form of skin layers. Because the cells are stuck together so tightly, this tissue provides a mostly impermeable and highly protective barrier for our bodies. Epithelial tissue also lines some internal cavities and organs. This sheet of epithelial cells provides a smooth and continuous lining for these areas.

Now let's look at the word squamous, which defines the shape of the actual cells that make up the tissue. Squamous means that the cells are flattened. You can think of them as being squashed. Let's visualize this concept. Imagine taking a bag of soft fruit candies and squashing each one flat. You then stick them together side-by-side and end-to-end. This is a visual representation of a single sheet of squamous epithelium.

We are almost finished defining our long scientific term. We now have sheets of flattened cells that are packed closely together. So how does the word 'stratified' change our tissue? Stratified means that the cells are not only in one layer, but are stacked. Think of the word strata, meaning layered. Adding to our visual, you can take another bag of fruit candy, squash them, stick them closely together, and then stack that sheet onto your original. You now have a complete representation of stratified squamous epithelium.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is stratified squamous epithelium?

The stratified squamous epithelium consists of flat cells that are layered or stacked on top of each other. The flat and tightly packed cells help to protect different parts of the body and to control the loss of moisture.

Where is stratified squamous epithelium located in the body?

Stratified squamous epithelium is located in many places around the body. These places include being around different organs, the skin, pharynx, and esophagus.

What is the function of the stratified squamous epithelium?

The stratified squamous epithelium is responsible for protecting different parts of the body. It helps the body retain water and keep places like the mouth moist.

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