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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the location and structure of the parathyroid glands
  • Describe the hormonal control of blood calcium levels
  • Discuss the physiological response of parathyroid dysfunction

The parathyroid glands    are tiny, round structures usually found embedded in the posterior surface of the thyroid gland ( [link] ). A thick connective tissue capsule separates the glands from the thyroid tissue. Most people have four parathyroid glands, but occasionally there are more in tissues of the neck or chest. The function of one type of parathyroid cells, the oxyphil cells, is not clear. The primary functional cells of the parathyroid glands are the chief cells. These epithelial cells produce and secrete the parathyroid hormone (PTH)    , the major hormone involved in the regulation of blood calcium levels.

Parathyroid glands

Part A of this diagram shows the four, small, disc-shaped parathyroid glands embedded in the posterior surface of the thyroid gland. Part B shows a micrograph of parathyroid tissue. The tissue is largely composed of cube-shaped chief cells encircling a central blood vessel. A few larger and darker-staining oxyphil cells are embedded within the many chief cells.
The small parathyroid glands are embedded in the posterior surface of the thyroid gland. LM × 760. (Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012)

View the University of Michigan WebScope at (External Link) to explore the tissue sample in greater detail.

The parathyroid glands produce and secrete PTH, a peptide hormone, in response to low blood calcium levels ( [link] ). PTH secretion causes the release of calcium from the bones by stimulating osteoclasts, which secrete enzymes that degrade bone and release calcium into the interstitial fluid. PTH also inhibits osteoblasts, the cells involved in bone deposition, thereby sparing blood calcium. PTH causes increased reabsorption of calcium (and magnesium) in the kidney tubules from the urine filtrate. In addition, PTH initiates the production of the steroid hormone calcitriol (also known as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D), which is the active form of vitamin D 3 , in the kidneys. Calcitriol then stimulates increased absorption of dietary calcium by the intestines. A negative feedback loop regulates the levels of PTH, with rising blood calcium levels inhibiting further release of PTH.

Parathyroid hormone in maintaining blood calcium homeostasis

This diagram shows the role of parathyroid hormone in maintaining blood calcium homeostasis. When blood calcium concentration drops, chief cells of the parathyroid gland release parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH affects bone, the kidneys and the intestines. In regards to bone, PTH inhibits osteoblasts and stimulates osteoclasts. This results in compact bone being broken down, as illustrated by an osteoclast burrowing into the surface of a bone. The break down releases calcium ions into a nearby blood vessel. The osteoblasts are inactive in this stage. In regards to the kidneys, PTH stimulates kidney tubule cells to recover waste calcium from the urine. PTH also stimulates kidney tubule cells to release calcitrol. This is illustrated with a cross section of a kidney tubule, showing the cells of the tubule wall. Urine is running to the left of the tubule wall cells while an artery is to the right. The right edge of the tubule wall cells and the left edge of the artery are separated by a small region of interstitial space. The cells are removing calcium from the urine and pumping it into the interstitial fluid, after which the calcium enters the artery. The cells are also pumping calcitrol into the blood vessel. In regards to the intestine, PTH stimulates the intestines to absorb calcium from digesting food. A cross section of an intestinal cell is shown, which is cube-shaped but with finger-like projections on the intestinal lumen side (top). Beneath the intestinal cell is an artery. Calcitrol is leaving the artery and entering the intestinal cell, stimulating it to absorb calcium from food in the intestinal lumen. The effects of PTH on bone, the kidneys and the intestines all cause blood calcium levels to increase. High calcium concentrations in the blood stimulate the parafollicular cells in the thyroid to release calcitonin. Calcitonin reverses the effects of PTH by stimulating osteoblasts and inhibiting osteoclasts in bone tissue. This is illustrated by calcium ions leaving a blood vessel and traveling to osteoblasts on a section of compact bone. The osteoblasts are thickening the compact bone layer while, in this stage, the osteoclasts are inactive.
Parathyroid hormone increases blood calcium levels when they drop too low. Conversely, calcitonin, which is released from the thyroid gland, decreases blood calcium levels when they become too high. These two mechanisms constantly maintain blood calcium concentration at homeostasis.

Abnormally high activity of the parathyroid gland can cause hyperparathyroidism    , a disorder caused by an overproduction of PTH that results in excessive calcium reabsorption from bone. Hyperparathyroidism can significantly decrease bone density, leading to spontaneous fractures or deformities. As blood calcium levels rise, cell membrane permeability to sodium is decreased, and the responsiveness of the nervous system is reduced. At the same time, calcium deposits may collect in the body’s tissues and organs, impairing their functioning.

In contrast, abnormally low blood calcium levels may be caused by parathyroid hormone deficiency, called hypoparathyroidism    , which may develop following injury or surgery involving the thyroid gland. Low blood calcium increases membrane permeability to sodium, resulting in muscle twitching, cramping, spasms, or convulsions. Severe deficits can paralyze muscles, including those involved in breathing, and can be fatal.

When blood calcium levels are high, calcitonin is produced and secreted by the parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland. As discussed earlier, calcitonin inhibits the activity of osteoclasts, reduces the absorption of dietary calcium in the intestine, and signals the kidneys to reabsorb less calcium, resulting in larger amounts of calcium excreted in the urine.

Chapter review

Calcium is required for a variety of important physiologic processes, including neuromuscular functioning; thus, blood calcium levels are closely regulated. The parathyroid glands are small structures located on the posterior thyroid gland that produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates blood calcium levels. Low blood calcium levels cause the production and secretion of PTH. In contrast, elevated blood calcium levels inhibit secretion of PTH and trigger secretion of the thyroid hormone calcitonin. Underproduction of PTH can result in hypoparathyroidism. In contrast, overproduction of PTH can result in hyperparathyroidism.

Questions & Answers

What are some of first questions are expected in anatomy and physiology course
Milner Reply
what is pacemaker
mekfira
which of the following is the epithelial tissue that lines the interior of blood vessels?
Firomsa Reply
why are the questions only 3
Chisom Reply
you too can ask
Addo
what is the treatment of herpes simplex virus?
riad Reply
the long bone with two primary center's of ossification for shaft is ________
Aarambam
medulla
Addo
good
Ravi
ha moj ha
Hani
doctor and nurse
Ravi
y 're the questions only 3
Chisom
women are much likely to be pregnant at which stage?
Fatoumatta Reply
There are only six days during any cycle when a woman can get pregnant - the five days leading up to ovulation and the 24 hours after ovulation. This is because sperm can live for up to 5 days in a woman's body, and the ovum lives for only 12-24 hours.
THE
right
Adil
does this apply to women close to menopose
Kuria
what's reason the reason for BP growing ?
Adil
when after they have intercourse
AJ
what is andropause
William Reply
It's the men version of menopause!
Catia
The testosterone levels decrease
Catia
what would happen if the sugar lever drops below the normal level
Marvin Reply
If our blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL, we may have symptoms, such as feeling tired, weak, or shaky, become confused or drowsy or even lose consciousness and possibly die.
Dhanya
symptoms of hypoglycemia include: shakiness, dizziness, headache, confusion, rapid pulse rate, sweating, Hunger, etc.
EMERIBE
you right
Khubaib
You become dizzy and weak
evans
Is there any way to disable this chat feature or at least mute notifications? Also, does every textbook app from this creator have the chat function?
Atone Reply
I don't think you can disable chat and yes it is on every app
AJ
what is homeostasis
Nikky Reply
what is respiratory
Nikky
Respiratory is breathing
Atone
respiration is an exchange of gases (O2 & CO2) between the body and outside environment.
joey
homeostasis is internal balance.
Ali
Respiratory is system where the body takes in oxygen n releases carbondioxide
Hassan
respiratory system is a system where exhalation and inhalation takes place
Kom
1)inhalation: active diaphragm & external intercoastal muscles 2)exhalation: passive (allow muscle group to relax)
Shoukat
mantaince of body is called homeostasis
Komal
hi komal
Khubaib
how are you komal?
Khubaib
hi
Komal
hey nikki
Khubaib
hii komal
Rinku
where you from kamal?
Khubaib
nice meet you
Rinku
oye rinku kya ha yahan kya kar rha ha
Khubaib
karachi
Komal
but I'm from lahore
Khubaib
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Khubaib
never
Komal
0309
Khubaib
khubaib arooj tu aa sakta h to me q nhi aa sakta
Rinku
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Khubaib
waw komal
Rinku
where you from?rinku
Khubaib
what is medical coding
Antony
waw komal
Rinku
yar rinku kahan se ho ap
Khubaib
I am from dausa,Rajasthan
Rinku
yar hum to pakistan se hain humy baat karny do
Khubaib
hoe r u alll
SARFARAJ
komal jha?
Khubaib
answer me please...What is basic concept or Acidosis?
Khalid
hiii komal
SARFARAJ
al hamd.o.lillah muslim
Khubaib
or aap
Khubaib
Allah ka shukr ha
SARFARAJ
aby tu b india chala ja un ko zarorat ha foji logon ki
Khubaib
beshak
Khubaib
myself Khalid Shabbir.Doctor of Anesthesia from PIMS Hospital.& belongs to Capital IslamAbad(Pakistan).
Khalid
yar sarfraz ap india se kab ay
Khubaib
tell me abt ethmoid bone
Sakshi
bro am all ready indian
SARFARAJ
okkk
SARFARAJ
hii sakshi how are you?
Khubaib
m gd..plz tell me the answer of it..
Sakshi
Face ki he ethmoid bone
Rakesh
ethmoid bone. Irregularly shaped bone anterior to the solenoid. Forms the roof of the nasal cavity, upper nasal septum, and part of the medial orbit walls.
LaKecia
Its unpaired bone of skull that saprate the nasal cavity from the brain it's located at the roof of the nose between the two orbits it's bone is one of the bones that make up the orbit of eye.
SARFARAJ
sphenoid I meant
LaKecia
wrist joint ka dusra name kya he
Rakesh
till me fast my ans
Rakesh
Also included in the ethmoid bone is the crista galli and the cribriform plates. The plates help form the roof of the nasal cavity and the floor of the anterior cranial fossa.
LaKecia
the outer most covering of the brain ( the dura mater) attached to the crista galli and helps secure the brain in the cranial cavity
LaKecia
Sakshi Mishra. I hope that helped!
LaKecia
thnks fo tellng😊
Sakshi
yup
Sakshi
yw
LaKecia
ye kya
Dr
hi
Dr
oh welcome sakshi
Khubaib
synovial joint will have present in wrist
sk
what's the smallest blood vessal in the body?
sk
respiration is the process of inspiration an expiration
Bel
first fall give me ans plz
sk
The protection of internal envirnment from the harm of external envirnmen is called as homeostasis.
Rana
Because stem cells have the unique ability to develop into any cell, stem cell therapy is being considered for treatment of kidney damage. What are your thoughts on stem cell treatment? Give at least three reasons for or against the treatment.
Samira Reply
to know the structure of the human body. to study the region of the human body. to understand the circulation of blood in the human body.
Angelashimakela Reply
what do CNS stand for
Angelashimakela Reply
central nervous system
Dustin
What does that mean
Shafiw
what does what mean
Larita
It means the system of brain and spinal cord! Sensory system of body!
rashid
is it where we find sensory gland?
Angelashimakela
glands are not a part of CNS! but sensory receptors are a part of peripheral nervous system!
rashid
PNS
rashid
👏
Angelashimakela
Ask what u want to?
rashid
structure, function and results
Dustin Reply
the pituitary gland lies in tha
Mohd Reply
tha pituitary lies in the
Mohd
the pituitary gland lies at the base of the brain between the hypothalamus and pineal gland.
nikki
which section of the pituitary gland has most secrations
Ehsanullah
What is the important role of FSH hormone?
Ehsanullah
pituitary gland lies in the sella tursica
Joseph
anterior pituitary has six important hormones
Joseph
The important role of FSH is that in females it stimulates growth and maturation of ova and in males it stimulates spermatogenesis..
Joseph
what is the important role of LH in females and males
Ayomide
the somatotrophs which secrete Somatotropin(Growth hormone) forms 50% of the secretory cells found in the anterior pituitary gland
Ayomide
what makes up of the hair
Ogunbowale Reply
protein
Berek
Keratin.
Joseph
Protein
jen
Keratin protein. It is also in skin and nails and in animals horns and hooves.
nikki
keratin
Charles

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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