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Anatomy and Physiology



Exploring Physiology - Shaping the Science of Life

- Anatomy vs. Physiology

Anatomy and physiology are two related biology disciplines. Simply put, anatomy is the study of the structure and identity of body parts, while physiology is the study of how these parts function and relate to one another. 

Anatomy and physiology work hand-in-hand. An x-ray technician might discover an unusual lump (change in gross anatomy), leading to a biopsy in which the tissue would be examined on a microscopic level for abnormalities (microscopic anatomy) or a test looking for a disease marker in the urine or blood (physiology).


- Anatomy

Anatomy is a branch of the field of morphology. Morphology encompasses the internal and outward appearance of an organism (e.g., is shape, size, pattern) as well as form and location of external and internal structures (e.g., bones and organs -- anatomy). A specialist in anatomy is called an anatomist. Anatomists gather information from living and deceased organisms, typically using dissection to master internal structure.

The two branches of anatomy are macroscopic or gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy focuses on the body as a whole and the identification and description of body parts large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Microscopic anatomy focuses on cellular structures, which may be observed using histology and various types of microscopy.


- Physiology

Physiology is the science of life. It is the branch of biology that aims to understand the mechanisms of living things, from the basis of cell function at the ionic and molecular level to the integrated behaviour of the whole body and the influence of the external environment. 

Research in physiology helps us to understand how the body works in health and how it responds and adapts to the challenges of everyday life; it also helps us to determine what goes wrong in disease, facilitating the development of new treatments and guidelines for maintaining human and animal health. The emphasis on integrating molecular, cellular, systems and whole body function is what distinguishes physiology from the other life sciences. 

Physiologists need to understand anatomy because the form and location of cells, tissues, and organs are related to function. In a combined course, anatomy tends to be covered first. If the courses are separate, anatomy may be a prerequisite for physiology. The study of physiology requires living specimens and tissues. While an anatomy lab is primarily concerned with dissection, a physiology lab may include experimentation to determine the reaction of cells or systems to change. There are many branches of physiology. For example, a physiologist may focus on the excretory system or the reproductive system.

Physiology is an exciting and dynamic discipline that underpins translational and clinical medicine. It also provides the interface between the physical sciences and the life sciences."



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