ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF THE INTEGUMENTARY SYSTEMIntroduction
This most extensive organ system has the skin and accessory structures, including hair, nails,glands (sweat and sebaceous), and specialized nerve receptors for stimuli (changes in internal or external environment) such as touch, cold, heat, pain, and pressure. Its functions includeprotection of internal structures, prevention of entry of disease-causing microorganisms,temperature regulation, excretion through perspiration, pigmentary protection against ultravioletsunrays, and production of vitamin D. The body stores about half its fat in the underlyinghypodermis.
Skin: epidermal layers
The skin is the largest organ of the body,with a surface area of 18 square feet. Itstwo main layers are the epidermis (outer layer) and dermis (inner layer). Theepidermis has several strata (layers) thatcontain four cell types. Keratinocytesproduce keratin, a protein that gives skin itsstrength and flexibility and waterproofs theskin surface. Melanocytes produce melanin,the dark pigment that gives skin its color.Merkel's cells are probably involved withtouch reception. Langerhans' cells help theimmune system by processing antigens(foreign bodies).The deepest layer of the epidermis, the stratum basale, is a single layer of cells resting on abasement membrane (layer between the dermis and epidermis). The stratum basale cells dividecontinuously. As new cells form, older ones are pushed toward the skin surface.The epidermis does not have a direct blood supply; all nutrients that feed these cells come fromthe dermis. Only the deepest cells of the stratum basale receive nourishment. The cells that arepushed away from this layer die. When the cells reach the skin surface, they are sloughed off in aprocess called desquamation.The next layer, the stratum spinosum, consists of spiny prickle cells that interlock to support theskin. The stratum granulosum, the thin middle layer, initiates keratinization (production of keratin).This process starts the death of epithelial cells (the cell type that makes up skin).During desquamation, keratinocytes are pushed toward the surface. These cells begin to producethe keratin that eventually will dominate their contents. When these cells reach the epidermisouter layer, they are little more than keratin-filled sacs. Millions of these dead cells are worn off daily, creating a new epidermis every 35 to 45 days.The stratum lucidum protects against sun ultraviolet-ray damage. This thick layer appears only infrequently used areas such as palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Thick skin epidermis hasall five strata. Thin skin covers thinner epidermal areas such as eyelids. Thin skin has three or four of the five strata; it never has stratum lucidum.The stratum corneum, the fifth, outermost layer is thick with rows of dead cells. These cellscontain soft keratin, which keeps the skin elastic and protects underlying cells from drying out.