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Epithelial cells (EC)

‘Epithelium’ is a general term for cellular tissue that wraps around certain surfaces. Inside the urinary tract, there are different types of epithelial cells: the squamous (Squa. EC) and the non-squamous epithelial cells (Non SEC). The non-squamous cells are further divided into transitional (Tran. EC) and renal tubular epithelial cells (RTEC).
Squamous epithelial cells (Squa. EC) are large, flat, irregularly shaped cells. They contain a small central nucleus and lots of cytoplasm. The cell edge is often folded over and the cell may be rolled up into a cylinder. It is normal to find squamous epithelial cells in urine. They come from the lower end of the urethra or from skin that the urine came into contact with during collection. As such, they may also represent a contamination typical for poorly collected mid-stream urine samples.
Transitional epithelial cells (Tran. EC, urothelial cells) vary in size and shape depending on their origin. They can come from the upper part of the urethra, from the ureters or the renal hilum. It is normal to find low numbers of transitional cells in urine.
Renal tubular epithelial cells (RTEC) are slightly larger than leucocytes and contain a large, round nucleus. They can appear flat, cube-shaped or as a column. They enter the urine from the tubule system of the nephrons. The presence of RTEC in urine indicates kidney problems.

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