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Anatomy Atlases: Atlas of Microscopic Anatomy: Section 1 - Cells Atlas of Microscopic Anatomy: Section 15 - Endocrine Glands

Plate 15.287 Parafollicular Cells

Ronald A. Bergman, Ph.D., Adel K. Afifi, M.D., Paul M. Heidger, Jr., Ph.D.
Peer Review Status: Externally Peer Reviewed

Thyroid gland

Plate 15.287 Parafollicular Cells

Rhesus monkey, glutaraldehyde, plastic section, H. & E.,
A. 119 x; B. & C. 169 x.


Parafollicular cells may be found intimately associated with thyroid follicles or as isolated or interstitial clusters of cells. They are not readily found in routine thicker sections of the thyroid gland. The photornicrographs above are from 1.5 µm plastic sections.

Although parafollicular cells (also known as light cells) appear, at the light microscopic level, to be in intimate contact with thyroid colloid, they are, in fact, separated from colloid by thin intervening processes of adjacent thyroid follicular cells.

Parafollicular cells synthesize and secrete the hormone calcitonin. This hormone lowers blood calcium levels by inhibiting bone resorption. The secretion of calcitonin results from elevation of blood calcium concentration above normal levels.  

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