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Histol Histopathol. 1997 Apr;12(2):391-9.

Comparative stereological studies on zonation and cellular composition of adrenal glands of normal and anencephalic human fetuses. II. Cellular composition of the gland.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University School of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland.


In our previous paper (Bocian-Sobkowska et al., 1997) we demonstrated a striking difference in development of zonation in adrenals of normal and anencephalic human fetuses. The purpose of the present study was to characterize, by means of stereology, the cellular composition of developing adrenals in the same case. Studies were performed on 11 pairs of adrenal glands from normal fetuses and 10 from anencephalic fetuses. In the studied period of development (24 to 39 weeks of intra-uterine life) the average volume of cells in normal glands increased as follows: zona glomerulosa (ZG) from 355 to 870 microns3; zona fasciculata (ZF) from 779 to 1200 microns3; fetal zone (FZ) from 2004 to 2380 microns3: and medulla (M) from 600 to 970 microns3. In anencephalic fetuses, the appropriate values were: ZG-380-680 microns3; ZF-460-680 microns3; FZ-1820-1680 microns3; and M-870-1400 microns3. At the end of the studied period the number of ZG cells in normal fetuses was two fold higher than in anencephalics, ZF cells-6-fold and in FZ-5-fold higher, while in the M the number of cells was nearly equal in both groups. During the whole investigated period of intra-uterine development the total number of adrenocortical cells in normal glands increased ca 2.5-fold, while in anencephalic glands only ca 0.5-fold, reaching at the end ca 40% of normal value. In both normal and anencephalic adrenals the number of ZG and M cells was highly correlated with ZG/M cell ratio, being slightly higher in normal glands. No such relation was demonstrated for cells of the remaining adrenocortical zones.

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