November 28, 2023

Cytoplasm is the material that makes up the body of a cell. It is made up of water, proteins, and organelles such as mitochondria, lysosomes, and the nucleus. The cytoplasm is surrounded by a thin barrier called the cell membrane that separates the inside of the cell from the external environment.


Pathologists use a combination of stains called hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) to see cells under the microscope. When viewed under the microscope, eosin makes the cytoplasm of the cell appear pink. The amount of cytoplasm inside a cell varies between different types of cells. For example, squamous cells on the surface of the skin have a large amount of cytoplasm. In contrast, specialized immune cells called lymphocytes have very little cytoplasm.

Pathologists use a variety of special terms to describe the look of a cell’s cytoplasm under the microscope.

Common terms used to describe the cytoplasm of a cell:

  • Eosinophilic: These cells appear bright pink as a result of a large amount of proteinaceous material in the body of the cell.
  • Oncocytic: These cells appear pink as a result of a large number of mitochondria in the body of the cell.
  • Clear: Very little hematoxylin or eosin is seen in the body of the cell.
  • Basophilic: The cells appear blue as a result of the stain hematoxylin sticking to material in the body of the cell.

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This article was written by doctors to help you read and understand your pathology report. Contact us if you have questions about this article or your pathology report. For a complete introduction to your pathology report, read this article.

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