Definition - What does Ectoderm mean?

The ectoderm is one of the 3 layers of cells that are formed during the very early stages of development of the embryo. The ectoderm is the outermost layer of these three layers and as the embryo develops, the cells of the ectoderm mature and develop into the cells of the skin and the nervous system. Abnormalities in the formation and development of the ectoderm can give rise to fetal abnormalities that can result in miscarriage.

FertilitySmarts explains Ectoderm

Around 3 weeks after fertilization, the embryo, which is a mass of cells, divides into three layers of cells namely the ectoderm, mesoderm and the endoderm.

In the developing fetus, the ectoderm is responsible for the formation of the skin, hair, nails, enamel of the teeth, the lining of the mouth, nasal cavity and anus, and the nervous system. The mesoderm, the middle layer, is responsible for the formation of major organs and tissue including muscle, bone, cartilage and bone marrow while the endoderm, the innermost layer forms the lining of those organs.

Abnormalities in the formation of this ectoderm, also known as ectodermal dysplasia, can give rise to abnormalities in the structures that are formed by the ectoderm. These abnormalities are commonly due to genetic abnormalities that are passed on from parent to child. When the abnormalities significantly affect the development of the embryo it can lead to miscarriage, making ectodermal dysplasia a cause of fertility issues.

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