Science Word Wednesday: Parenchyma

Sep 02, 2020
By Zoe Terwilliger


(noun. /puh-RENK-uh-ma or /PAIR-en-kahym-a/) 

What does it mean? 

Organs can be made of several parts–some parts perform the primary function of the whole organ, while other parts are only supportive. The part of an organ that performs the primary function of that tissue is known as the parenchyma. Take a muscle like the bicep as an example. The bicep is made of muscle fibers, which contract and exert force, and also connective tissues like tendons that help attach the muscles to the skeleton. The parenchyma of the bicep is/are? the muscle fibers, not the tendons.

This is an illustration of skeletal muscle. The muscle fibers are the parenchyma of skeletal muscle while the tendon is made of supporting tissue that aids in the muscle fibers action.
Picture adapted from:

How do I use [parenchyma] in a sentence?

When looking at tissues under a microscope, it is important to see if the parenchyma is intact. If the parenchyma is intact it may signal important information about the health of the organ.

Additional information: 

The definition of the word given here is directly related to the anatomy of animals with vertebrae (vertebrates). There are alternative definitions for animals without vertebrae (invertebrates) and plants. 

Edited by Emma Goldberg and Anna Wheless