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5 Ways to Make Skin Layers and Organ Anatomy a More Approachable Topic

Teaching with Labster
October 18, 2022

Introduction: Skin layers and organ anatomy

Skin is the largest organ that covers a total area of 2 square meters. Skin is made of fats, minerals, proteins, and water that protect the body from several external factors. Skin belongs to the integumentary system, the word “integumentary” means a body’s superficial covering.

The skin’s color is created by special cells that are called melanocytes. These cells produce the pigment melanin which is responsible for the color of the skin. A microscopic view of skin cell reveals the structure of the skin and elements present within the structures helps the skin to accomplish the protective role.

Skin is a dynamic organ because the cells present in the outer layer are continuously shed. These cells are replaced by the inner cells that move up to the outer surface. Additionally, the thickness of your skin depends upon the age and according to the anatomical position of each individual.

Skin layers and organ anatomy is an important topic but students may find this tricky and time-consuming. This topic is also complicated for teachers to teach. Read on to know why this topic is problematic for teachers and students, five ways to make this topic easier to learn, and why a virtual lab simulation is a better way to learn the skin layers and organ anatomy.

layers of skin

Figure: Cross section of skin showing layers and internal structures from Labster theory 

Why skin layers and organ anatomy can be tricky to learn

Skin layers and organ anatomy is a complex topic, here are 3 reasons why skin layers and organ anatomy can be tough for students to learn.

1. It’s complicated

When students learn about the skin layers and organ anatomy, they need to study the different cell types present in the skin layers. For example, the first layer of skin is the epidermis which consists of 4 types of cells. These are keratinocytes, Merkel cells, melanocytes, and Langerhans cells. Each cell has different functions and structures that are hard to remember. Skin layers and organ anatomy is a complex topic and students find it difficult to learn.

2. It feels abstract

It is hard to sketch an exact picture of skin cell anatomy at the molecular level. Some students may find it tough to learn about the skin layers and organ anatomy from the textbook. They do not see the skin cell with the real eye, so it is difficult to learn about the structure of the skin without viewing a picture.

3. It's content-heavy

In skin anatomy, students need to learn from the basic cell structure to the several skin conditions and the skin tests. It is difficult for students to remember all the content about skin anatomy. We can say that study of skin layers and organ anatomy is tough for students to learn as well as for teachers to convey properly.

5 ways to make skin layers and organ anatomy a more approachable topic to understand

Since we know the difficulties that students may experience during studying skin layers and organ anatomy, here are 5 ways that can make the skin layers and organ anatomy a more interesting topic for students.

1. Basic knowledge about structure and layers of skin

Students should know about the layers of the skin that enhance their knowledge related to this topic. There are three layers of skin.

  1. Epidermis

  2. Dermis

  3. Hypodermis

Epidermis: The epidermis is the topmost layer of the skin. It is formed by keratinized, flattened epithelium and acts as a physical barrier to prevent excessive water loss and also prevent the entry of harmful organisms into the body. The epidermis itself consists of several layers that are the basal cell layer, the stratum corneum, the spinous cell layer, and the granular cell layer. The basal cell layer is the deepest epidermis layer that produces millions of new skin cells daily.

Moreover, the epidermis is responsible for the color of the skin because melanin is produced in this layer. The color of your skin, hair, and eyes depends upon the amount of melanin. For example, people with darker skin tones have more melanin pigment in the skin, while people with lighter skin tones have less melanin pigment.

Dermis: Dermis is the middle layer of the skin that makes up 90% of the skin thickness. There are two main proteins present in the dermis layer; collagen and elastin. Collagen is a protein that makes the skin stronger and the elastin protein provides flexibility. Additionally, it contains blood vessels to provide nutrients to the outer layer (epidermis) and keeps the skin healthy. Sweat glands and sebaceous glands are present in the dermis layer. Sweat glands produce sweat in hair follicles and on the surface of the skin. The two kinds of sweat glands are apocrine and eccrine. Oil glands are also called sebaceous glands that release sebum from the skin. Sebum is a mixture of triglycerides, inorganic salts, proteins, and cholesterols.  Nerves present in the dermis help you to feel when something is too hot.

Hypodermis: Hypodermis also known as the subcutaneous layer, is the last layer under the dermis. Basically, it is not a part of the skin but it connects the skin to underlying connective tissues. It is a fatty layer that protects your bones and muscles from injury. Blood vessels and nerves are getting larger when entering from the dermis to the hypodermis. Then, these blood vessels and nerves connect the hypodermis to the rest of the body parts. It helps to regulate the temperature of the body because the fat keeps the body from getting too hot or cold.

2. Functions of skin

Skin accounts for 15% of the body weight and plays several functions in the body.

The main function of the skin is to act as a physical barrier between the internal environment of the body and the external environment. So, it helps to protect the internal organs from the harms of injuries, hazardous substances and other infections.

The skin helps to maintain homeostasis by regulating the body’s temperature. Homeostasis also helps to avoid the loss of water.

There are several sensory receptors present in the skin that detect pain, touch, tickle, vibration, temperature, and sensation and send the message to the brain to get a motor response.

The skin absorbs the UV light from the sun to produce vitamin D in the body. Also, it protects the body from the harmful radiations of UV light with the help of melanin production by melanocytes.

Our skin excretes the waste products by producing sweat. When sweat evaporates from the body, it helps in lowering the body temperature. Moreover, subcutaneous glands are the oily secretions that increase the absorption of water and reduce excessive evaporation in the body.

Another important function of the skin is to maintain thermoregulation. Up to 80% of the heat of the body is lost through the skin.

3. Use color diagrams:

Color diagrams are helpful in understanding difficult topics like skin layers and organ anatomy. Using visual diagrams while studying can make learning easier. You can better understand the structures and layers of the skin when these are visualized. Color diagrams, like the one used below, can help to understand the skin anatomy deeply.  The image shows the structure of the basal cell which is found in the epidermis. 

Skin Layers and Organ Anatomy

Figure: An image of a basal cell from Labster’s virtual laboratory on skin layers and organ anatomy

4. Learn about Keratinocytes:

Keratinocytes are the cell types present in the epidermis. These cells are produced by the basal layer and push towards the upper site, where they are turned into corneocytes. There are various compounds produced by keratinocytes. They produce keratin and lamellar bodies that form a water barrier for the skin. Keratinocyte also helps to hold the melanin, which protects against harmful UV radiations.

Keratinocytes produce four layers; Stratum corneum, Stratum granulosum, Stratum spinulosum, and Stratum basale. These layers are differentiated from each other by the different cell types.

Keratinocytes are highly specialized cells that play an important role in the protection of the skin. It works as a tight barrier that prevents the entry of foreign substances within the body. Keratinocytes also play a structural role because they make a tight bond with the other cells and keep them in the exact locations.  

5. Use visual lab simulation

Skin layers and organ anatomy is a complex topic, so we recommend learners use skin layers and organ anatomy at Labster. We can provide an advanced laboratory simulation to help learners understand the skin layers more easily.

It is a 3D simulation that helps to identify the layers and cell types of the epidermis, structure components and functions of the dermis, and terminal differentiation of keratinocytes. By using Labster simulation, you do not need to struggle anymore because Labster has gamification elements that make the topic simple to understand.

Explore Skin Layers and Organ Anatomy: Follow a skin cell’s journey! Virtual Lab Simulation GIF

Learn more about skin layers and organ anatomy here, or get in touch to find out how you can start using virtual labs with your students.

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