The growth of an individual from a fertilized egg into an adult involves an increase in the number of cells and an increase in the size of cells. Growth that is due to an increase in cell number results from an increased rate of mitotic cell division and is termed hyperplasia. Growth of a tissue or organ due to an increase in cell size is termed hypertrophy.
Most growth is due to hyperplasia. A callus on the palm of the hand, for example, involves thickening of the skin by hyperpla-sia due to frequent abrasion. An increase in skeletal muscle size as a result of exercise, by contrast, is produced by hypertrophy.
Skeletal muscle and cardiac (heart) muscle can grow only by hypertrophy. When growth occurs in skeletal muscles in response to an increased workload—during weight training, for example—it is called compensatory hypertrophy. The heart muscle may also demonstrate compensatory hypertrophy when its workload increases because of hypertension (high blood pressure). The opposite of hypertrophy is atrophy, the wasting or decrease in size of a cell, tissue, or organ. This may result from the disuse of skeletal muscles, as occurs in prolonged bed rest, various diseases, or advanced age.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.