Histology, microscopy, anatomy and disease
Histology, microscopy, anatomy and disease

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Histology, microscopy, anatomy and disease

2.2 Histopathology of the nervous system

In the activity below you will examine sections from the nervous system in conditions in which neurons die. These are Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal lobe dementia and cerebrovascular disease.

Activity 4

Open the virtual microscope [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] in a new window or tab. Find Slides 6–14 in the ‘Week 4’ category.

Start with Slide 6. Slide 6 is from a normal cortex for comparison. The outer layer of the brain, the cortex, contains large numbers of neuronal cell bodies and appears as ‘grey matter’. Beneath the cortex are areas with a high proportion of axons and myelin-producing oligodendrocytes, which appear as ‘white matter’.

Next look at Slides 7 and 8. They are from the cortex of a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Slide 7 shows the loss of neurons from the outer layers of the cerebral cortex. Slide 8 is stained to show accumulation of the protein β-amyloid; the accumulation of the protein in discrete plaques is very evident.

Next look at Slides 9 and 10. They are from the midbrain of a person with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In this condition neurons from particular regions of the brain, controlling movement, are selectively lost. In addition, intracellular accumulations of protein, termed Lewy bodies, are detected by an H&E stain (Slide 9). The Lewy bodies can be identified by immunohistochemical staining with antibodies that recognise the protein α-synuclein (Slide 10).

Next look at Slides 11 and 12. They show frontotemporal lobe dementia (FTLD). In this condition there is severe neuronal loss from the cortex (Slide 11) and neurons often have protein inclusions. However, unlike Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid plaques and tangles are absent. Slide 12 is a section from the spinal cord, which shows motor neuron loss.

Finally, look at Slides 13 and 14. They are from a patient who had cerebrovascular disease. Slide 13 shows areas of cell death caused by lack of an adequate blood supply (infarcts). In this case the condition is associated with thickening of the walls of the blood vessels, narrowing the vessel lumen and deposition of β-amyloid, a condition termed amyloid angiopathy (Slide 14).

Slides 7–14 were kindly loaned for imaging by Dr Andrew King and Dr Safa Al-Saraj from King’s College Hospital, London.

OUFL_008

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371