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How does the human body grow?

Year 2 Children from Redcar and Cleveland and Chloe O’Neill from Swansea
age 5-14 (Biology Big Questions)

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5 Responses

  1. How does the human body grow? That really is a Big Question. The thing is that different parts of the human (and animal) body grow in different ways. And what is really cool is that it all those bits of the body grow at the right sort of speed. Otherwise you could end up with a gigantic pair of feet and a tiny head. (DON’T look round the room, Year 2!).

    Let’s look at a couple of bits, starting with our bones. Bone growth is what decides how tall we end up. The bones that really make a difference are the ones in our legs. These are called “long bones” for obvious reasons. They grow by putting on length at each end and then – when you’ve reach your middle teens – they STOP. Bones grow in length but not much in width. How long? Well that depends a bit on your genes and a bit on things like how good your diet is. You need calcium and vitamins to get good bone growth.

    OK. Now let look at a completely different tissue – muscle. Muscle grows to keep pace with bone growth and with the amount of exercise you do. So some of the growth is kind of automatic – if muscles didn’t grow along with the rest of the body then you’d end up tied in a tiny knot . But a lot of muscle growth depends on how much you use the muscles. Lift lots of weights and you get big biceps for instance. And actually the same rule applies to lots of other bits of the body such as the liver, kidneys and lungs. But not all tissues obey that rule: the brain, for example, gets to grown-up size and then stops growing.

    So growth of the body is really complicated and we don’t fully understand how all the bits and pieces manage to work together like a team. Occasionally you find people where one of the tissues hasn’t worked they way it does for most people. This is one of the reasons you get super-short and very, very tall people. The amazing thing is how often nature gets it right (OK. I’ve got a really big nose and my ears stick out. So what; no-one is perfect!).

    By the way, I’m a doctor and member of the Royal College of Pathologists. Our first National Pathology Week (3 – 9 November 2008) is taking place this year. See http://www.rcpath.org/index.asp?PageID=1526 for more details.

  2. i have a question..i understand how the body grows, but like for instance i’m fifteen almost sixteen and i want to know if my body will change or if i will stay the same and from the face what will actually change??

  3. your face would have changes like growth of mustache and beard,this is what i think.

  4. i’m 15 171cm, my dad is 179cm and i’m taller then my mum and I havent grown much since i was 13. I want to be 185, or at least 180 will i get there?

  5. Say a person who weighs 150 lbs eats in order to gain weight, and he eats very clean: we’re talkin food that is very low in saturated and trans fat, but he doesnt lift weights. If he gained weight where would the weight come from? I dont see how it could be muscle if muscle can only grow via lifting weights and steroid/growth hormone use. and it wouldnt be from fat if he’s not eating any, so where would the weight come from?

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