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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

name the 5 layers of skin
Monika Reply
stratum basale, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, stratum corneum
airiz
those are the layers of epidermis,, then we have the dermis which has got two layers that is papillary dermis and reticular dermis.. beneath the dermis we have the hypodermis( subcutaneous layer) which is not considered as a layer of skin
airiz
what's a feedback
ivhil Reply
is the information or comment about something that one have done
Gaston
may be you mean negative or positive feedback mechanism... in general, they mean body response its changes by hormones
Quran
what is endocrin?
Asim Reply
why should there be an inhibition to the process of gastric production in the intestinal phase
Gloria
endocrine is a system through which the secretions of cell directly poured into blood.
Tanveer
why should there be an inhibition to the process of gastric production in the intestinal
Gloria Reply
what is a stimuli
Emily Reply
environment factor that cause a cell to respond
Quran
name the two types of melanin
Laila Reply
deference between RNA and DNA
Ali
.DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. The sugar portion of DNA is 2-Deoxyribose.RNA stands for Ribonucleic Acid.  The sugar portion of RNA is Ribose.2.The helix geometry of DNA is of B-Form (A or Z also present).The helix geometry of RNA is of A-Form.3.DNA is a double-stranded molecule consisting o
ryaisha
DNA consists of nucleotide but RNA consists of nucleoside DNA is double standard but RNA is single standard.In DNA at the nitrogen bases adinine,guanine,cytocin and thymine is present but in case of RNA instead of thymine uracil is present.
Tanveer
what are rdna
Budumari
what is a heart
walker Reply
A heart is an organ in the circulatory system that pumps blood throughout the systemic regions
bernard
what is anatomy
Aisha
Anatomy is the study of internal and external structures and the relationship among body parts. (the study of structure).
Tomi
what is the physiology of the heart
nadine
guys help me with a pathophysiology of asthma
Luyando
asthma is a lungs related disorder in which there is difficulty in breathing due to some allergic factors, their is inflamation of alveoli of respiratory part of lungs.also decreases the surface area.
Tanveer
what is meaning of brain strock and its types?
Tanveer
the pathophysiology of asthma is complex and involves airway inflammation and bronchial hyperresponsiveness pathogenesis of asthma
Omkar
skin infection please explain
Hamza Reply
what is malignant melanoma
Akon Reply
cancerous cells 🙄
Sohan
yes benign is non-cancerous malignant is cancerous.
Joseph
that's a simple way of explaining it however you're different processes like mitosis etc a person can be at risk for developing cancer etc
Joseph
you can tell by an unusual growth of a mole, or change in size coloration with melanoma. which is abnormal growth of your squamous cells.
Joseph
Types of wandering connective tissues
Hassan Reply
what are the meaning of skin
PASHALINA Reply
study of external structure of human body is known as anatomy
VINAY Reply
what is Tau?
Vicki Reply
what is sliva
Saqlain Reply
what is gross
Kiran 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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