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20.4: Small Intestine

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    The coiled tube of the small intestine is subdivided into three regions. From proximal (at the stomach) to distal, these are the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum (Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)).

    This diagram shows the small intestine. The different parts of the small intestine are labeled.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Small Intestine The three regions of the small intestine are the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. (CC-BY-4.0, OpenStax, Human Anatomy)



    The wall of the small intestine is composed of the same four layers typically present in the alimentary system. However, three features of the mucosa and submucosa are unique. These features, which increase the absorptive surface area of the small intestine more than 600-fold, include circular folds, villi, and microvilli (Figure 20.9). These adaptations are most abundant in the proximal two-thirds of the small intestine, where the majority of absorption occurs.

    Illustration (a) shows the histological cross-section of the small intestine. The left panel shows a small region of the small intestine, along with the blood vessels and the muscle layers. The middle panel shows a magnified view of a small region of the small intestine, highlighting the absorptive cells, the lacteal and the goblet cells. The right panel shows a further magnified view of the epithelial cells including the microvilli. Illustrations (b) shows a micrograph of the circular folds, and illustration (c) shows a micrograph of the villi. Illustration (d) shows an electron micrograph of the microvilli.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Histology of the Small Intestine (a) The absorptive surface of the small intestine is vastly enlarged by the presence of circular folds, villi, and microvilli. (b) Micrograph of the circular folds. (c) Micrograph of the villi. (d) Electron micrograph of the microvilli. From left to right, LM x 56, LM x 508, EM x 196,000. (credit b-d: Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012) (CC-BY-4.0, OpenStax, Human Anatomy)


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