Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
Development of ciliated (CC) in the fetal human trachea was studied by light and electron microscopy in specimens obtained from 45 embryos or fetuses aged from 9 to 27 weeks of gestation (menstrual age). Four stages could be recognized during tracheal development. Up to 11 weeks (stage I), the trachea was covered with a columnar undifferentiated epithelium with abundant glycogen, apical microvilli, and primary cilia. From 12 to 18-19 weeks (stage II), centriolo-genesis and secondary ciliogenesis were very active, and the percentage of CC and secretory cells (SC) progressively increased. From 20 to 22-23 weeks, the density of CC was higher but, in parallel, the percentage of SC decreased (stage III). Throughout this period, the different steps of ciliogenesis could be identified in the same field, and the ciliated borders consisted of ciliary shafts with a disorderly arrangement. Megacilia were identified. Some of the preciliated cells had both cilia and secretory granules in their apical cytoplasm. After 24 weeks (stage IV), the ciliated border was apparently mature, the rootlets lengthened, and the cilia were correctly orientated. Whatever the fetal age, the density of CC was significantly higher (P 〈 .01) in the dorsal trachea compared to the ventral trachea. There are many similarities between animal and human ciliogenesis, but in human fetuses, most of the ciliary differentiation occurs early, during the first half of gestation. As demonstrated in experimental models, SC likely play a major role in genesis of CC during the fetal development of the human trachea.
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