Alternative names
Epithelial cells


The term “epithelium” refers to cells that line hollow organs and glands and which make up the outer surface of the body. Epithelial cells help to protect or enclose organs; some produce mucous or other secretions.

Certain types of epithelial cells have tiny hairs called cilia, which help remove foreign substances (for example, from the respiratory tract).

Epithelial cells can be arranged in single layers or multiple layers depending on the type.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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