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Ossification of Skull

by Peter Ward, PhD
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    00:01 Hello, welcome.

    00:02 We´re gonna now discuss the development of the skull and thereafter, the face.

    00:06 Now, during the first five weeks, the embryo is developing relatively quickly and we get a head of the embryo relatively quickly but it doesn´t really look human.

    00:17 It´s not until the skull and the face really come into their own that we have what would appear to be a more human face and that´s done by the end of the embryologic period and only gets larger during the fetal period.

    00:30 So the development of the face is something that we could say really and truly makes us really appear human is something that´s happening shortly after five weeks.

    00:38 So here in this process, some things are gonna happen that are relatively strange.

    00:43 The skull is going to develop and contain the brain but a bony skull would actually compress the growing brain and not allow it to expand.

    00:51 So the body has to get the best of both worlds.

    00:54 A skull that protects the brain but still allows it to grow.

    00:58 The face is going to form from a series of folds that develop on the neck.

    01:02 These are called pharyngeal arches and we´ll have an entire lecture devoted just to those but that´s gonna be what creates the maxilla, the mandible, the cheeks, and the nose.

    01:13 And then, various glands including the calcitonin secreting and parathyroid secreting, glandular cells are all gonna be coming from the inside of the early throat or pharynx.

    01:25 So a lot of different things are going on, not just morphologic, not just change in shape, but actual, functional physiologic glands will be developing at the same time as the face is developing.

    01:36 Now, the skull itself can be roughly divided into two parts: the neurocranium which is the base of the skull and the viscerocranium which is going to be the facial bones that grow down from the neurocranium.

    01:50 So neurocranium contains the brain and the viscerocranium would be the portion of the skull that is basically our face.

    01:58 At the very base of the skull, we have several cartilages form.

    02:03 The basioccipital, the basisphenoid, the presphenoid, and the mesethmoid cartilages and these form a line of cartilaginous precursors right along the base of the skull where the brain sits.

    02:17 Now, if you take a look at this picture, you´ll see there are a large number of other smaller cartilages but they´re all going to consolidate together and grow into the image we see on the right where we have not necessarily something that appears to be a skull but a group of cartilages that are growing, expanding, and very gradually turning into bone.

    02:39 And starting from the front, we have the mesethmoid, the basisphenoid, then the basioccipital a little bit further back and it will surround the foramen magnum.

    02:50 The sphenoid bone which is going to contain part of the temporal bone on its lateral side, the sphenoid bone itself is gonna develop with the orbit a little bit in front of the basioccipital bone.

    03:02 So let´s move a little further in and see how that cartilage becomes bone.

    03:07 If you´ve seen the video on limb development, you´ve already heard of endochondral ossification.

    03:13 As a quick review, endochondral ossification denotes that we have a mesenchyme precursor that turns into cartilage and then, turns into bone.

    03:23 Hence the name, endochondral, chondral meaning cartilage.

    03:26 But in the skull and a few other bones in the body that are flat, we have intramembranous ossification.

    03:33 So let´s start with the endochondral ossification.

    03:36 These cartilaginous precursors at the base of the skull and the roof of the face are going to enlarge.

    03:43 The great thing about cartilage is that it is continually expanding.

    03:47 The chondrocytes that are within the cartilage keep on creating daughter cells and the cartilage gets bigger and that´s why our face changes shape over time.

    03:57 The facial bones grow inferiorly and anteriorly as this process occurs because they´re basically growing down from the base of the skull.

    04:08 The continued growth takes us from this appearance that we see on the screen here with a relatively short face and a huge, huge calvarium containing the brain to something that´s a little more one to one.

    04:21 The face grows down and takes up basically the same amount of vertical height as the brain.

    04:27 So the face gets longer and longer the older we get.

    04:30 Now, if we maintain this basically baby-like appearance during life, that´s going to be problematic and is tied to a couple clinical conditions.

    04:40 And you´ll notice that not only does the face grow down but the jaw elongates and allows the chin to protrude just a bit further.

    04:47 Now, we´ve discussed endochondral ossification, let´s back up and talk about intramembranous ossification.

    04:55 This is basically the same process but we cut out the middle step.

    04:59 So we have a mesenchyme precursor and it transitions directly to bone.

    05:03 And this happens in the flat bones of the skull such as the frontal bone, the parietal bone, part of the occipital bone and so forth.

    05:13 This intramembranous ossification creates little bony spikes that grow outward.

    05:19 So let´s take a look at this both in development and in its mature state.

    05:24 Initially, that mesenchyme just creates little trabeculae or struts of bone.

    05:30 In this image, you can see them at the center and they´re those kind of purplish red structures that are going to be at the center of this core of mesenchyme but as we develop fully, we wind up with that transitioning to compact bone on the outside of the skull, compact bone on the inside of the skull and those trabeculae are little struts in between.

    05:52 To get to this stage, we usually start with little cores of ossification that grow outward and they just expand like a coral reef growing outward and outward and very soon, those cores of bone whether they be parietal, frontal, or occipital will grow close and meet their neighbors.

    06:10 Now, it would make sense that if that happens, that the bones would fuse.

    06:14 But that´s not what happens and in fact, there´s a whole regulatory cascade involving the dura mater and the periosteum of these bones that prevent them from actually locking together completely.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Ossification of Skull by Peter Ward, PhD is from the course Development of the Nervous System, Head, and Neck.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Nasal capsule
    2. Basisphenoid
    3. Presphenoid
    4. Basioccipital
    5. Mesethmoid
    1. Occipital bone
    2. Hyoid bone
    3. Nasal capsule
    4. Malleus
    5. Incus
    1. Hyoid bone
    2. Frontal bone
    3. Parietal bone
    4. Maxillary bone
    5. Zygomatic bone

    Author of lecture Ossification of Skull

     Peter Ward, PhD

    Peter Ward, PhD


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