The Integumentary System
The integumentary system is an organ system consisting of the skin, hair, nails, and exocrine glands. The skin is only a few millimeters thick yet is by far the largest organ in the body. The average person’s skin weighs 10 pounds and has a surface area of almost 20 square feet. Skin forms the body’s outer covering and forms a barrier to protect the body from chemicals, disease, UV light, and physical damage. Hair and nails extend from the skin to reinforce the skin and protect it from environmental damage. The exocrine glands of the integumentary system produce sweat, oil, and wax to cool, protect, and moisturize the skin’s surface.
The Nervous System
The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, sensory organs, and all of the nerves that connect these organs with the rest of the body. Together, these organs are responsible for the control of the body and communication among its parts. The brain and spinal cord form the control center known as the central nervous system (CNS), where information is evaluated and decisions made. The sensory nerves and sense organs of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) monitor conditions inside and outside of the body and send this information to the CNS. Efferent nerves in the PNS carry signals from the control center to the muscles, glands, and organs to regulate their functions.
Neurons, also known as nerve cells, communicate within the body by transmitting electrochemical signals. Neurons look quite different from other cells in the body due to the many long cellular processes that extend from their central cell body. The cell body is the roughly round part of a neuron that contains the nucleus, mitochondria, and most of the cellular organelles. Small tree-like structures called dendrites extend from the cell body to pick up stimuli from the environment, other neurons, or sensory receptor cells. Long transmitting processes called axons extend from the cell body to send signals onward to other neurons or effector cells in the body.
The brain, a soft, wrinkled organ that weighs about 3 pounds, is located inside the cranial cavity, where the bones of the skull surround and protect it. The approximately 100 billion neurons of the brain form the main control center of the body. The brain and spinal cord together form the central nervous system (CNS), where information is processed and responses originate. The brain, the seat of higher mental functions such as consciousness, memory, planning, and voluntary actions, also controls lower body functions such as the maintenance of respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion.
The Spinal Chord
The spinal cord is a long, thin mass of bundled neurons that carries information through the vertebral cavity of the spine beginning at the medulla oblongata of the brain on its superior end and continuing inferiorly to the lumbar region of the spine. In the lumbar region, the spinal cord separates into a bundle of individual nerves called the cauda equina (due to its resemblance to a horse’s tail) that continues inferiorly to the sacrum and coccyx. The white matter of the spinal cord functions as the main conduit of nerve signals to the body from the brain. The grey matter of the spinal cord integrates reflexes to stimuli.
The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is the collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.
The endocrine system is made up of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries (in females) and testicles (in males), the Mayo Clinic notes.
The Muscular System
The muscular system is responsible for the movement of the human body. Attached to the bones of the skeletal system are about 700 named muscles that make up roughly half of a person’s body weight. Each of these muscles is a discrete organ constructed of skeletal muscle tissue, blood vessels, tendons, and nerves. Muscle tissue is also found inside of the heart, digestive organs, and blood vessels. In these organs, muscles serve to move substances throughout the body.
The Skeletal System
The skeletal system includes all of the bones and joints in the body. Each bone is a complex living organ that is made up of many cells, protein fibers, and minerals. The skeleton acts as a scaffold by providing support and protection for the soft tissues that make up the rest of the body. The skeletal system also provides attachment points for muscles to allow movements at the joints. New blood cells are produced by the red bone marrow inside of our bones. Bones act as the body’s warehouse for calcium, iron, and energy in the form of fat. Finally, the skeleton grows throughout childhood and provides a framework for the rest of the body to grow along with it.
The Circulatory System
The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood vessels, and the approximately 5 liters of blood that the blood vessels transport. Responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and cellular waste products throughout the body, the cardiovascular system is powered by the body’s hardest-working organ — the heart, which is only about the size of a closed fist. Even at rest, the average heart easily pumps over 5 liters of blood throughout the body every minute.
The heart is a muscular pumping organ located medial to the lungs along the body’s midline in the thoracic region. The bottom tip of the heart, known as its apex, is turned to the left, so that about 2/3 of the heart is located on the body’s left side with the other 1/3 on right. The top of the heart, known as the heart’s base, connects to the great blood vessels of the body: the aorta, vena cava, pulmonary trunk, and pulmonary veins?
Blood vessels are the body’s highways that allow blood to flow quickly and efficiently from the heart to every region of the body and back again. The size of blood vessels corresponds with the amount of blood that passes through the vessel. All blood vessels contain a hollow area called the lumen through which blood is able to flow. Around the lumen is the wall of the vessel, which may be thin in the case of capillaries or very thick in the case of arteries.
Arteries and Arterioles: Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart. Blood carried by arteries is usually highly oxygenated, having just left the lungs on its way to the body’s tissues. The pulmonary trunk and arteries of the pulmonary circulation loop provide an exception to this rule – these arteries carry deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs to be oxygenated.
Capillaries: Capillaries are the smallest and thinnest of the blood vessels in the body and also the most common. They can be found running throughout almost every tissue of the body and border the edges of the body’s avascular tissues. Capillaries connect to arterioles on one end and venules on the other.
Veins and Venules: Veins are the large return vessels of the body and act as the blood return counterparts of arteries. Because the arteries, arterioles, and capillaries absorb most of the force of the heart’s contractions, veins and venules are subjected to very low blood pressures. This lack of pressure allows the walls of veins to be much thinner, less elastic, and less muscular than the walls of arteries.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
The lymphatic system primarily consists of lymphatic vessels, which are similar to the circulatory system's veins and capillaries. The vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where the lymph is filtered. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of the lymphatic system.
The Respiratory System
The cells of the human body require a constant stream of oxygen to stay alive. The respiratory system provides oxygen to the body’s cells while removing carbon dioxide, a waste product that can be lethal if allowed to accumulate. There are 3 major parts of the respiratory system: the airway, the lungs, and the muscles of respiration. The airway, which includes the nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and bronchioles, carries air between the lungs and the body’s exterior. The lungs act as the functional units of the respiratory system by passing oxygen into the body and carbon dioxide out of the body. Finally, the muscles of respiration, including the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, work together to act as a pump, pushing air into and out of the lungs during breathing.
The lungs are a pair of large, spongy organs found in the thorax lateral to the heart and superior to the diaphragm. Each lung is surrounded by a pleural membrane that provides the lung with space to expand as well as a negative pressure space relative to the body’s exterior. The negative pressure allows the lungs to passively fill with air as they relax. The left and right lungs are slightly different in size and shape due to the heart pointing to the left side of the body. The left lung is therefore slightly smaller than the right lung and is made up of 2 lobes while the right lung has 3 lobes.
Bronchi and Bronchioles
At the inferior end of the trachea, the airway splits into left and right branches known as the primary bronchi. The left and right bronchi run into each lung before branching off into smaller secondary bronchi. The secondary bronchi carry air into the lobes of the lungs—2 in the left lung and 3 in the right lung. The secondary bronchi in turn split into many smaller tertiary bronchi within each lobe. The tertiary bronchi split into many smaller bronchioles that spread throughout the lungs. Each bronchiole further splits into many smaller branches less than a millimeter in diameter called terminal bronchioles. Finally, the millions of tiny terminal bronchioles conduct air to the alveoli of the lungs.
The Digestive System
The digestive system is a group of organs working together to convert food into energy and basic nutrients to feed the entire body. Food passes through a long tube inside the body known as the alimentary canal or the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). The alimentary canal is made up of the oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, and large intestines. In addition to the alimentary canal, there are several important accessory organs that help your body to digest food but do not have food pass through them. Accessory organs of the digestive system include the teeth, tongue, salivary glands, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
The Urinary System
The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra. The kidneys filter the blood to remove wastes and produce urine. The ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra together form the urinary tract, which acts as a plumbing system to drain urine from the kidneys, store it, and then release it during urination. Besides filtering and eliminating wastes from the body, the urinary system also maintains the homeostasis of water, ions, pH, blood pressure, calcium, and red blood cells.
The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs found along the posterior wall of the abdominal cavity. The left kidney is located slightly higher than the right kidney because the right side of the liver is much larger than the left side. The kidneys, unlike the other organs of the abdominal cavity, are located posterior to the peritoneum and touch the muscles of the back. The kidneys are surrounded by a layer of adipose that holds them in place and protects them from physical damage. The kidneys filter metabolic wastes, excess ions, and chemicals from the blood to form urine.
The Reproductive Systems
The Female Reproductive System
The female reproductive system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, vulva, mammary glands and breasts. These organs are involved in the production and transportation of gametes and the production of sex hormones. The female reproductive system also facilitates the fertilization of ova by sperm and supports the development of offspring during pregnancy and infancy.
The Male Reproductive System
The male reproductive system includes the scrotum, testes, spermatic ducts, sex glands, and penis. These organs work together to produce sperm, the male gamete, and the other components of semen. These organs also work together to deliver semen out of the body and into the vagina where it can fertilize egg cells to produce offspring.