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Keywords:

  • liver morphology;
  • morphometry;
  • human embryo;
  • magnetic resonance imaging

Abstract

Embryonic liver has a unique external morphology and quantitative morphometry, based on magnetic resonance imaging data of human embryos from the Kyoto Collection of Human Embryos. Liver morphogenesis is strongly affected by the adjacent organs and tissues. The left ventricle develops to the left medial-caudal side, which results in the formation of a depression at left medial region and a prominence bilaterally at the cranial surface of the liver between Carnegie Stage (CS)17 and CS19. An imprint of the stomach that formed at the dorsal left-medial region of the liver became more marked with development until CS23. A depression induced by the umbilicus formed at the ventral region of the liver between CS16 and CS19. An indentation caused by the right adrenal gland formed at the dorsal-caudal region of the liver surface from CS20. Morphometric analysis revealed that the volume of the liver increased exponentially from CS14 through CS23. The liver developed preferentially along the dorsoventral axis and right/left axis until CS17, along the craniocaudal axis between CS17 and CS19, and then in all directions after CS19. Several important developmental phenomena, such as differentiation of the diaphragm, the extension of the body axis of the embryo, and the physiologic herniation of the intestine into the umbilical cord, may affect morphometric data. These data contribute to a better understanding of liver development as well as the morphogenesis of adjacent organs, both temporally and spatially, and serve as a useful reference for fetal medicine and prenatal diagnosis. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.