Integumentary System: Providing Protection from the External Environment

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The integumentary system establishes a barrier between the inside of the human body and the outside world. The purpose of this system is to provide protection from the external environment, sensation in terms of pressure, pain, and temperature, production of vitamin D after exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, temperature regulation so as to not overheat the body, and excretion through means of sweating (Martini, Nath, & Bartholomew, 2011). The skin is able to provide the body with all of the aforementioned features because of its composition. The skin itself is made up of two layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The outermost layer of the skin is the epidermis and is made up of stratified squamous epithelium. The epidermis does not contain any blood vessels and is vastly made up of keratinocytes. These cells secrete a protein called keratin which contributes to the tough feeling of skin and its water resistance. The epidermis also contains melanocytes that are responsible for skin pigmentation and Langerhans cells that work as a part of the immune system to provide an immediate defense if a foreign substance were to come in contact with the skin. There are also Merkel cells in the epidermis that are responsible for sensations such as light touch and slight pressure (Patton & Thibodeau, 2009). Aside from these features, the epidermis is also made up of five distinct layers called strata. The deepest and innermost layer of the epidermis is the stratum basale.

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