The parathyroid consists chiefly of chief cells (duh!). The chief cells are small cells arranged into curvilinear cords. Parathyroid chief cells secrete parathyroid hormone (again, duh!), which stimulates osteoclast activity and thus raises the blood calcium level. PTH thus works antagonistically with calcitonin (from thyroid C cells) to regulate blood calcium.
The parathyroid also contains oxyphil cells (not conspicuous on our specimens) which are packed with mitochondria, hence the acidophilia for which they are named. Roth and Abu-Jawdeh cite studies which "suggest that there is a mitochondropathy, which may lead to the proliferation of the mitochondria within the cells" (Sternberg's Histology for Pathologists, 2nd ed., p. 1103).
For an example of parathyroid hyperplasia with prominent oxyphils, see WebPath. For a parathyroid adenoma , see WebPath.
SIUC / School
of Medicine / Anatomy / David
Last updated: 25 April 2002 / dgk