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The Human Body

Author(s): Deanne Erdmann MS

Human Organ Systems

Groups of organs working together to perform major activities of the body are called organ systems.

The skeletal system, made of bones, cartilage and joints, is the framework of the body. It protects internal organs, stores minerals and provides a place for muscles to attach.

The human muscular system is composed of smooth, cardiac and skeletal muscle tissue. Skeletal muscle, attached to the skeleton with dense strips of connective tissue called tendons, is responsible for the movement of body parts. Smooth muscle, sometimes called visceral muscle, is found in internal organs (eg, lines the walls of many blood vessels, makes up the iris of the eye and forms the wall of the gut). Cardiac muscle forms the bulk of the heart which controls blood circulation.

The circulatory system—blood, blood vessels and the heart—is the body's transportation system, moving oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, wastes, hormones, vitamins, minerals and water throughout the body. It also aids in regulation of temperature.

The digestive system converts foods to simple substances that can be absorbed and used by the cells of the body. It is composed of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine and is aided by several accessory organs (liver, gall bladder, and pancreas).

Made up of the skin, lungs, sweat glands and the kidneys, the excretory system removes metabolic wastes from the body. The kidneys are responsible for eliminating the bulk of wastes from the human body.

The reproductive system generates reproductive cells (gametes) and provides a mechanism for them to be fertilized and maintained until the developing embryo can survive outside the body. The primary reproductive organs are the ovaries (female) and the testes (male).

The nervous system regulates and coordinates the body's responses to changes in the internal and external environment. Major structures of the nervous system are the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

The endocrine system consists of the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands, as well as the pancreas, ovaries and testes. This system helps to maintain homeostasis, regulate temperature, and control growth, development, metabolism and reproduction by secreting and releasing hormones.

The first line of defense in protecting the body is the integumentary system, which is composed of the skin, hair, nails, sweat and oil glands. It protects against injury, infection and fluid loss and also aids in temperature regulation.