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skin - 1 Guillory The integumentary system is a very...

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1 Guillory The integumentary system is a very important part of our body. It protects the inside of our body from the dangers of the outside world. The skin is the largest and most important organ in the integumentary system. It can weigh twenty pounds or more in most adults and accounts for about sixteen percent of our total body weight. The integumentary system includes the skin and its accessory structures, which include the hair, nails, and specialized sweat and oil-producing glands. A number of microscopic and highly specialized sense organs are imbedded in the skin as well. They allow the body to respond to certain stimuli such as pain, pressure, touch, and changes in temperature. This system is extremely important to our survival. (Patton & Thibodeau, 2008) The skin is also referred to as a cutaneous membrane. This membrane is a type of epithelial membrane that contains epithelial cells and an underlying layer of supportive connective tissue (Patton & Thibodeau, 2008). There are three layers of skin called the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis(subcutaneous). The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin, and protects the body from the environment. The thickness of the epidermis varies in different types of skin; it is only .05 mm thick on the eyelids, and is 1.5 mm thick on the palms and the soles of the feet. The epidermis contains the melanocytes (the cells in which melanoma develops), the Langerhans' cells (involved in the immune system in the skin), Merkel cells and sensory nerves. The epidermis layer itself is made up of five sublayers that work together to continually rebuild the surface of the skin (Skin Anatomy, 2007). The deepest layer of the epidermis, the stratum basale, is a single layer of cells resting on a basement membrane (layer between the dermis and epidermis). The stratum basale cells divide continuously. As new cells form, older ones are pushed toward the skin surface (Skin (Integumentary System), 2001). The basal cell layer contains cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the skin coloring or pigment known as melanin, which gives skin its tan or brown color and helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Sun exposure causes melanocytes to increase production of melanin in order to protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet rays, producing a suntan (Structure and Function, 2006).
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