Human development begins with a single cell, the fertilized egg, which soon divides to produce scores of identical, smaller cells. The first tissues appear when these cells start to organize themselves into layers—first two, and soon three strata called the primary germ layers, which give rise to all of the body's mature tissues. The three layers are called ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. The ectoderm3 is an outer layer that gives rise to the epidermis and nervous system. The inner layer, the endoderm,4 gives rise to the mucous membranes of the digestive and respiratory tracts and to the digestive glands, among other things. Between these two is the mesoderm,5 a layer of more loosely organized cells. Mesoderm eventually turns to a gelatinous tissue called mesenchyme, composed of fine, wispy collagen (protein) fibers and branching cells called fibroblasts embedded in a gelatinous ground substance. Mesenchyme closely resembles the connective tissue layer in figure 5.11a. It gives rise to muscle, bone, and blood, among other tissues. Most organs are composed of tissues derived from two or more primary germ layers. The rest of this chapter concerns the "mature" tissues that exist from infancy through adulthood.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.