The finger-like mound of cells in the central portion of this micrograph is an intestinal villus. The single layer of cells on its surface is the only barrier between the contents of the gut lumen and the inside of the body. The major job of these surface cells is to absorb nutrients from the food. The fingerlike villi help to increase the intestinal surface area to maximize absorption. In fact, the total absorptive surface area of an adult human intestine is about 2000 square feet, much bigger than most student apartments.
Art contributed by: Deborah Gumucio, PhD, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan
Read more about intestinal absorption here.
Read more about intestinal cell types here.
Read about a cool new way to study human intestine here!