Our skin uncovered
In zootomy and dermatology, skin is an organ of the integumentary system composed of a layer of tissues that protect underlying muscles and organs. As the interface with the surroundings, it plays the most important role in protecting against pathogens. Its other main functions are insulation and temperature regulation, sensation and vitamin D and B synthesis.
Mammalian skin often contains hairs, which in sufficient density is called fur. The hair mainly serves to augment the insulation the skin provides, but can also serve as a secondary sexual characteristic or as camouflage. On some animals the skin is very hard and thick, and can be processed to create leather. Reptiles and fish have hard protective scales on their skin for protection, and birds have hard feathers, all made of tough β-keratins. Amphibian skin is not a strong barrier to passage of chemicals. A frog sitting in an anesthetic solution will quickly go to sleep.
The skin is often known as "the largest organ in the human body". This applies to exterior surface, as it covers the body, appearing to have the largest surface area of all the organs. Moreover, it applies to weight, as it weighs more than any single internal organ, accounting for about 15 percent of body weight. For the average adult human, the skin has a surface area of between 1.5-2.0 square metres, most of it is between 2-3 mm thick. The average square inch of skin holds 650 sweat glands, 20 blood vessels, 1000 melanocytes, and more than a thousand nerve endings.
Skin is composed of the epidermis and the dermis. Below these layers lies the hypodermis(subcutaneous adipose layer), which is not usually classified as a layer of skin.
The outermost epidermis is consists of stratified squamous epithelium with an underlying basement membrane. It contains no blood vessels, and is nourished by diffusion from the dermis. The main type of cells which make up the epidermis are keratinocytes, with melanocytes and Langerhans cells also present. The epidermis can be further subdivided into the following strata (beginning with the outermost layer): corneum, lucidum, granulosum, spinosum, basale. Cells are formed through mitosis at the innermost layers. They move up the strata changing shape and composition as they differentiate, inducing expression of new types of keratin genes. They eventually reach the corneum and become sloughed off (desquamation). This process is called keratinization and takes place within about 30 days. This layer of skin is responsible for keeping water in the body and keeping other harmful chemicals and pathogens out.
Blood capillaries are found beneath the epidermis, and are linked to an arteriole and a venule. Arterial shunt vessels may bypass the network in ears, the nose and fingertips.
The dermis can be split into the papillary and reticular layers. The papillary layer is outermost and extends into the dermis to supply it with vessels. It is composed of loosely arranged fibres. Papillary ridges make up the lines of the hands. The reticular layer is more dense and is continuous with the hypodermis. It contains the bulk of the structures (such as sweat glands). The reticular layer is composed of irregularly arranged fibres and resists stretching.
- An inflammatory disease of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles of the skin that is marked by the eruption of pimples or pustules, especially on the face.
- Microscopic unicellular prokaryotic organisms characterized by the lack of a membrane-bound nucleus and membrane-bound organelles.
- The sensitive connective tissue layer of the skin located below the epidermis, containing nerve endings, sweat and sebaceous glands, and blood and lymph vessels.
- The outer, protective, nonvascular layer of the skin of vertebrates, covering the dermis.
- A subcutaneous layer of loose connective tissue containing a varying number of fat cells.
- A small swelling of the skin, usually caused by acne; a papule or pustule.
- Invisible electromagnetic radiation between visible violet light and X rays.