Reference > Anatomy of the Human Body > Page 1273
Henry Gray (1825–1861).  Anatomy of the Human Body.  1918.

Structure.—Microscopically the parathyroids consist of intercommunicating columns of cells supported by connective tissue containing a rich supply of blood capillaries. Most of the cells are clear, but some, larger in size, contain oxyphil granules. Vesicles containing colloid have been described as occurring in the parathyroid, but the observation has not been confirmed.
  No doubt the parathyroid glands produce an internal secretion essential to the well-being of the human economy; but it is still a matter of dispute what symptoms of disease are produced by their removal and suppression of their secretion. Pepere believes that they show signs of exceptional activity during pregnancy, and that parathyroid insufficiency is a main factor in the production of tetany in infants and adults, of eclampsia, and of certain sorts of fits. It is probable that the tetany following parathyroidectomy is due to the accumulation of ammonium carbonate and Kendall has suggested that the function of the parathyroid is to convert ammonium carbonate into urea.
4c. The Thymus
  The thymus (Fig. 1178) is a temporary organ, attaining its largest size at the time of puberty (Hammar), when it ceases to grow, gradually dwindles, and almost disappears. If examined when its growth is most active, it will be found to consist of two lateral lobes placed in close contact along the middle line, situated partly in the thorax, partly in the neck, and extending from the fourth costal cartilage upward, as high as the lower border of the thyroid gland. It is covered by the sternum, and by the origins of the Sternohyoidei and Sternothyreoidei. Below, it rests upon the pericardium, being separated from the aortic arch and great vessels by a layer of fascia. In the neck it lies on the front and sides of the trachea, behind the Sternohyoidei and Sternothyreoidei. The two lobes generally differ in size; they are occasionally united, so as to form a single mass; and sometimes separated by an intermediate lobe. The thymus is of a pinkish-gray color, soft, and lobulated on its surfaces. It is about 5 cm. in length, 4 cm. in breadth below, and about 6 mm. in thickness. At birth it weighs about 15 grams, at puberty it weighs about 35 grams; after this it gradually decreases to 25 grams at twentyfive years, less than 15 grams at sixty, and about 6 grams at seventy years.

FIG. 1178– The thymus of a full-time fetus, exposed in situ. (See enlarged image)

Development.—The thymus appears in the form of two flask-shaped entodermal diverticula, which arise, one on either side, from the third branchial pouch (Fig. 1175), and extend lateralward and backward into the surrounding mesoderm in front of the ventral aortæ. Here they meet and become joined to one another by connective tissue, but there is never any fusion of the thymus tissue proper. The pharyngeal opening of each diverticulum is soon obliterated, but the neck of the flask persists for some time as a cellular cord. By further proliferation of the cells lining the flask, buds of cells are formed, which become surrounded and isolated by the invading mesoderm. In the latter, numerous lymphoid cells make their


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