Description of the occlusion of the spinal cord lumen in early human embryos



Previous studies of both chick and human embryos have shown that the brain enlarges rapidly once the neural tube becomes a closed, fluid-filled system. Prior to such enlargement, the medial walls of the spinal cord appear fused, occluding the lumen. This study describes occlusion of the lumen in terms of its incidence, location along the neuroaxis, time of occurrence, duration of occurrence, and morphology in human embryos. Eighty-two human embryos (stages 9–15) from the Carnegie Collection were analyzed. Occlusion first occurs (and is most prevalent) in stage 11 embryos and is absent in embryos older than stage 13. In all cases examined, the neuroaxis demonstrated uninterrupted occlusion from the level of the third pair of somites to at least the ninth pair (i.e., approximately 60% of the neuroaxis was occluded). The appearance of the occluded neural tube in cross sections is similar to that of a soda straw that has been pinched between one's fingers.