Microvilli are strands that look like tiny hairs that are attached to the membrane of a cell.
To see them you would have to have a high-powered microscope and if you look at them they would remind you of the little bristles on your toothbrush.
The reason they exist in the state that they are in is so that it increases the cell’s surface area to assist them to take in and release molecules.
They are never found in plant cells due to the fact that plant cells have cell walls that are required to be rigid and this keeps from expanding the surface area.
Microvilli are Very Specialized
You won’t find microvilli on every cell, because they are only found on cells that have a specialized purpose.
An example of two of these specialized cells is white blood cells and the small intestines.
The microvilli on the surface of white blood cells act like bodyguards to protect against dangerous viruses and bacteria.
If the white blood cells detect a threat they need to move through the bloodstream fast. It’s the microvilli that give them the ability to migrate quickly all throughout the body.
There are villi in your small intestine that helps in the digestion of food.
These are bigger strands that look more like “fingers” than like “hairs,” but they are made of many cells.
Microvilli are a major part of the villi cells and because of them the surface areas of the small intestine is increased.
The microvilli make the surface area 600 times larger so that the villi can move nutrients from the small intestine into the bloodstream.
Microvilli Doing Their Jobs
It’s the microvilli that have enzymes that help to break down the larger molecules into smaller ones so that they can be moved into the bloodstream.
The enzymes can handle some of the biggest pieces such as carbohydrates and proteins and churn them into easily transportable molecules and amino acids.
Our small intestines have multiple of thousands of microvilli, and there are so many that scientists have given the area that they form the name of “brush border.”
This name is a carryover from days gone by when microscopes weren’t as powerful as they are now.
At that time all scientists saw on the small intestine surface was a fuzzy fringe that was rather large.
Microvilli are in a lot of places
Besides white blood cells and the small intestine, microvilli can be found in a variety of places throughout your body.
They are found in the tongue, nose, and even in your ears. It’s the microvilli on your tongue that are the tiniest hairs on the taste buds that send your brain signals.
Your brain translates the signals to tell you what something tastes like. As you taste more and more things your brain stores the information sent by the microvilli in its own databank.
This databank is used when you taste something new as well as comparing tastes and classifying them.
Facts about Secretory Microvilli
- Microvilli can exist in, on, and around cells as well as on their own.
- Microvilli have their own plasma membranes covering them.
- Microvilli have cytoplasm inside of them.
- A single microvilli is known as a microvillus
- There are almost no organelles in microvilli
- The ability of the microvilli to increase the surface area lets them participate in functions including secretion, cellular adhesion, and absorption.
Interesting Facts about Biology
- The length of your thumb is the same length as your nose.
- Migratory birds have a “magnetreception” area in their brain that helps them to use the earth’s magnetic field so they can navigate their flight.
- The average lifespan of an eyelash is around 5 months.
- Our brains generate enough energy to illuminate a light bulb.
- The largest egg in the world is an ostrich egg. This egg has a volume to equal 30 chicken eggs.
- 80% of an armadillo’s life is spent sleeping.
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