Explore the field of human anatomy, the study of the body’s structures. This discipline is broadly categorized into gross, or macroscopic, anatomy (the exploration of structures that can be seen with the naked eye) and microscopic anatomy (the learning of structures that must be seen with the aid of a microscope), the latter including histology (the research of the organization of tissues) and cytology (the research of cells).
The study of anatomy can be traced back thousands of years, at least to the Egyptians, but the science of anatomy as we know it today didn’t develop until much later. The development of the study of anatomy gradually built upon concepts that were understood during the time of the Greek physician Galen and slowly became a part of the traditional medical curriculum. Over time, anatomy has been characterized by a continually developing understanding of the functions of organs and structures in the body.
In the past, the study of anatomy has been accomplished through dissection, as indicated by the origins of the word “anatomy” from the Greek words “ana” (meaning up) and “tome” (meaning a cutting). In modern medicine, there are less invasive ways to research the body. Some of these include endoscopy, in which a tube with a camera is inserted through the mouth or rectum to investigate the gastrointestinal tract, or any one of several imaging technologies, including angiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), or X-ray. As one of the most complex organs in the human body, the brain requires minimally invasive techniques like electroencephalogram (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Radiology is a branch of medicine that deals with diagnostic images of anatomic structures made through the use of electromagnetic radiation or sound waves and that treats disease through the use of radioactive compounds. Radiologic technologists make up the third-largest group of healthcare professionals—surpassed in number only by physicians and nurses.
Anatomists can examine a body and internal organs from a regional approach or a systemic approach. Regional anatomy is the research of the interrelationships of all the structures in a specific body region, such as the abdomen. Systemic anatomy, on the other hand, focuses on the anatomy of different organ systems; for example, a systemic study of the muscular system would examine all the skeletal muscles of the body.