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Hautarzt. 2014 Apr;65(4):282-90. doi: 10.1007/s00105-013-2702-2.

[Anatomy, biology, physiology and basic pathology of the nail organ].

[Article in German]

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Dermaticum Freiburg, Schlippehof 5, 79110, Freiburg, Deutschland,


The nail is the largest skin appendage. It grows continuously through life in a non-cyclical manner; its growth is not hormone-dependent. The nail of the middle finger of the dominant hand grows fastest with approximately 0.1 mm/day, whereas the big toe nail grows only 0.03-0.05 mm/d. The nails' size and shape vary characteristically from finger to finger and from toe to toe, for which the size and shape of the bone of the terminal phalanx is responsible. The nail apparatus consists of both epithelial and connective tissue components. The matrix epithelium is responsible for the production of the nail plate whereas the nail bed epithelium mediates firm attachment. The hyponychium is a specialized structure sealing the subungual space and allowing the nail plate to physiologically detach from the nail bed. The proximal nail fold covers most of the matrix. Its free end forms the cuticle which seals the nail pocket or cul-de-sac. The dermis of the matrix and nail bed is specialized with a morphogenetic potency. The proximal and lateral nail folds form a frame on three sides giving the nail stability and allowing it to grow out. The nail protects the distal phalanx, is an extremely versatile tool for defense and dexterity and increases the sensitivity of the tip of the finger. Nail apparatus, finger tip, tendons and ligaments of the distal interphalangeal joint form a functional unit and cannot be seen independently. The nail organ has only a certain number of reaction patterns that differ in many respects from hairy and palmoplantar skin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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