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A gland is an organ in an animal's body that synthesizes a substance for release such as hormones, often into the bloodstream (endocrine gland) or into cavities inside the body or its outer surface (exocrine gland). From a psychological point of view glands are important to the degree to which:
- Their activity is affected by stress, particularly psychological stress
- Their activity is the result of the expression of emotion - think of tears
- Their activity is of psychological significance, - think of [[milk production] and breastfeeding amongst humans
- Their activity mediates behavior - think of the the production of pheromones
Types of gland
Humans have a large variety of glands, from the pituitary gland in the brain, to sweat glands over the body's skin that release perspiration to regulate the body's temperature. Other well known glands include the adrenal glands, the prostate gland, the thyroid gland, the pineal gland, the thymus and mammary gland. Two other paired glands are the parotid glands and submandibular glands, both involved in saliva production.
Glands can be divided into 2 groups:
- Endocrine glands — are glands part of the endocrine system that secrete their product directly onto a surface rather than through a duct.
- Exocrine glands — secrete their products via a duct, the glands in this group can be divided into three groups:
- Apocrine glands — a portion of the secreting cell's body is lost during secretion. Apocrine gland is often used to refer to the apocrine sweat glands, however it is thought that apocrine sweat glands may not be true apocrine glands as they may not use the apocrine method of secretion.
- Holocrine glands — the entire cell disintegrates to secrete its substances (e.g., sebaceous glands)
- Merocrine glands — cells secrete their substances by exocytosis (e.g., mucous and serous glands). Also called "eccrine."
The type of secretory product of an Exocrine gland may also be one of three categories:
- Serous glands — secrete a watery, often protein-rich product.
- Mucous glands — secrete a viscous product, rich in carbohydrates (e.g., glycoproteins).
- Sebaceous glands — secrete a lipid product.
Every gland is formed by an ingrowth from an epithelial surface. This ingrowth may from the beginning possess a tubular structure, but in other instances glands may start as a solid column of cells which subsequently becomes tubulated. As growth proceeds, the column of cells may divide or give off offshoots, in which case a compound gland is formed. In many glands the number of branches is limited, in others (salivary, pancreas) a very large structure is finally formed by repeated growth and sub-division. As a rule the branches do not unite with one another, but in one instance, the liver, this does occur when a reticulated compound gland is produced. In compound glands the more typical or secretory epithelium is found forming the terminal portion of each branch, and the uniting portions form ducts and are lined with a less modified type of epithelial cell. Glands are classified according to their shape. If the gland retains its shape as a tube throughout it is termed a tubular gland, simple tubular if there is no division (large intestine), compound tubular if branching occurs (pyloric glands of stomach). In the simple tubular glands the gland may be coiled without losing its tubular form, e.g. in sweat glands.
In the second main variety of gland the secretory portion is enlarged and the lumen variously increased in size. These are termed alveolar or saccular glands. They are again subdivided into simple or compound alveolar glands, as in the case of the tubular glands. A further complication in the case of the alveolar glands may occur in the form of still smaller saccular diverticuli growing out from the main sacculi. These are termed alveoli.
References & Bibliography
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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