The morphological development of the carotid body was studied by electron microscope in human fetuses from 40mm to 260mm crown rump length (10-30 weeks of gestational age). At 40mm fetus, the carotid body was composed of cluster of primitive glomus cells, primitive supporting cells, unmyelinated nerve fibers, and blood capillaries. In connective tissue between internal and external carotid arteries adjacent to the superior cervical sympathetic ganglion, two types of glomus cells through all prenatal period were found. Dark cells contained a dense cytoplasm with conspicuous large dense-cored granules, whereas light cells had a less dense cytoplasm with dense-cored granules. The light cells contained dense-cored granules that were smaller and less abundant than those in the dark cells. The primitive supporting cells appeared star-shaped with attenuated cytoplasmic extensions intervening between the adjacent glomus cells. Synaptic contact between the axon terminals and soma of the glomus cells were first observed at 40mm fetus. In 80-100mm fetus, the carotid body contained tightly packed collection of glomus cells and supporting cells which surrounded the abundant thin-walled blood vessels. Intercellular junctions between the glomus cells and adjacent cells were commonly seen. Nerve endings on the glomus cells have the form of small boutons and the other from of large calyces. During the second half of the fetal period, the glomus cells were completely enveloped by supporting cells and nerve terminals. At 260mm, the morphological features of carotid body were similar to those of human adult. The result of this study demonstrates that there are differences between the carotid body and aorticopulmonary bodies, especially with respect to their synaptic complexes, abundant blood capillaries, and two glomus cell types.
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