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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Create a timeline of the phases of respiratory development in the fetus
  • Propose reasons for fetal breathing movements
  • Explain how the lungs become inflated after birth

Development of the respiratory system begins early in the fetus. It is a complex process that includes many structures, most of which arise from the endoderm. Towards the end of development, the fetus can be observed making breathing movements. Until birth, however, the mother provides all of the oxygen to the fetus as well as removes all of the fetal carbon dioxide via the placenta.

Time line

The development of the respiratory system begins at about week 4 of gestation. By week 28, enough alveoli have matured that a baby born prematurely at this time can usually breathe on its own. The respiratory system, however, is not fully developed until early childhood, when a full complement of mature alveoli is present.

Weeks 4–7

Respiratory development in the embryo begins around week 4. Ectodermal tissue from the anterior head region invaginates posteriorly to form olfactory pits, which fuse with endodermal tissue of the developing pharynx. An olfactory pit    is one of a pair of structures that will enlarge to become the nasal cavity. At about this same time, the lung bud forms. The lung bud    is a dome-shaped structure composed of tissue that bulges from the foregut. The foregut    is endoderm just inferior to the pharyngeal pouches. The laryngotracheal bud is a structure that forms from the longitudinal extension of the lung bud as development progresses. The portion of this structure nearest the pharynx becomes the trachea, whereas the distal end becomes more bulbous, forming bronchial buds. A bronchial bud    is one of a pair of structures that will eventually become the bronchi and all other lower respiratory structures ( [link] ).

Development of the lower respiratory system

This flowchart shows the embryonic development of the respiratory system and correlates the gestational age to the appearance of new features.

Weeks 7–16

Bronchial buds continue to branch as development progresses until all of the segmental bronchi have been formed. Beginning around week 13, the lumens of the bronchi begin to expand in diameter. By week 16, respiratory bronchioles form. The fetus now has all major lung structures involved in the airway.

Weeks 16–24

Once the respiratory bronchioles form, further development includes extensive vascularization, or the development of the blood vessels, as well as the formation of alveolar ducts and alveolar precursors. At about week 19, the respiratory bronchioles have formed. In addition, cells lining the respiratory structures begin to differentiate to form type I and type II pneumocytes. Once type II cells have differentiated, they begin to secrete small amounts of pulmonary surfactant. Around week 20, fetal breathing movements may begin.

Weeks 24–term

Major growth and maturation of the respiratory system occurs from week 24 until term. More alveolar precursors develop, and larger amounts of pulmonary surfactant are produced. Surfactant levels are not generally adequate to create effective lung compliance until about the eighth month of pregnancy. The respiratory system continues to expand, and the surfaces that will form the respiratory membrane develop further. At this point, pulmonary capillaries have formed and continue to expand, creating a large surface area for gas exchange. The major milestone of respiratory development occurs at around week 28, when sufficient alveolar precursors have matured so that a baby born prematurely at this time can usually breathe on its own. However, alveoli continue to develop and mature into childhood. A full complement of functional alveoli does not appear until around 8 years of age.

Questions & Answers

what is metabolism
fred Reply
Chemical reaction that takes in place in the cell of a living organism that includes anabolism and Catobolism.
Norman
Catabolism*
Norman
metabolic chemical reaction is of two types, anabolism and catabolism. The break down of larger molecules into smaller molecules is called catabolism.
Ahmad
Metabolism is the chemical reaction that includes anabolism and catabolism
Kedha's
Anabolism is the chemical reaction that combines all the smaller quantities to make large
Kedha's
Catabolism is the chemical process that breaks larger quantities into small
Kedha's
what's abdominal police?
Mohamed
hcl
Annette
hydrochloric acid is the stomach police
Annette
its the stomach omentum
Agama
description of the ears
Nana Reply
which component of mucus allows it to maintain local level of hydration
Loriann Reply
can the teeth be classify under bones?
Ojaga Reply
Bony prominents
guka
What is the largest muscle in the lower leg
Gwen Reply
what's a nervous system
Dante Reply
Is a the group of neurons and glial cells that work together to receive, integrate and responds appropriately to stimulus in the periphery, spinal cord and brain.
Hertzo
study about internal structure, outer structure and their functions
Navdeep Reply
circulatory system on blood pressure
Lakhu Reply
What is ELISA
POULAMI Reply
(enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) is a test that uses antibodies and color change to identify a substance.
luke
tr
Mohamed
what's defense mechanism?
Saintina
psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.
Henry
difference between apocrine sweat glands and merocrine sweat glands
Binkheir Reply
I believe the apocrine sweat gland uses a sac under the hair follicle and the merocrine sweat gland releases directly on to the surface of the skin
Mark
normal blood volume in our body
pankaj Reply
5Litres
Albert
Normal blood volume in adults is 6 litres
Kedha's
4.7 to 5ltr.. normal for adult
Clangbhelle
what are the advantages of the concave shape of red blood cells?
Amy Reply
This structure is VERY flexible. It can allow these cells to get into the most tiny places in our bodies. a VERY good design! The advantage of red blood cells' biconcave shape is that the surface area is increased to allow more haemoglobin to be stored in the cell.
Saafi
They can stack so that they can move to capillaries
Nejat
what is the difference between phagocytosis and Pinosis
fred
action of gluteus medius and minimus
Green Reply
Lateral rotation of the hip joint
Hertzo
Briefly explain location of ecg on a patient
Prince Reply
it is a machine that gives a graphical representation of heart beat
Nani
Briefly explain location of ecg leads on a patient?
Prince
in ecg we use electrical leads over the chest ,ancle and wrist
Nani
what is the anatomical and function difference between paravertebral and prevertebral ganglia ?
Rada Reply

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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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