The presence of elastin layers in the aortic walls of twelve human fetuses was confirmed with scanning electron microscope pictures after hot alkali treatment and histochemical examination. In addition, the number of elastin layers in aortic walls of 5 different segments were compared in fetuses of varying ages. Aldehyde fuchsin stained slides of elastin ascending aortas showed a range between 27 and 55 layers of elastin in fetuses of 8 weeks to 32 weeks. However, in the lower abdominal aortas, elastin layers decreased from 28 to only 3 layers for fetuses of the same age. Furthermore, as elastin layers decreased from ascending aorta to abdominal aorta with the progression of fetal life, similar changes in the elastin lamellae were observed. These results suggest that while aortas grow rapidly in length, the medial elastin thickens slowly, perhaps due to slow development of hydrodynamic forces and pressures. Also the adventitial elastin appears to lose out gradually along the length from ascending aorta to abdominal aorta.
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