EDELMANN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY. EDELMANN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY.
The human foetus after 10 weeks, showing the legs & feet (note development of the toes), & the spiralling umbilical cord carrying the blood vessels which exchange nourishment (ie oxygen) & waste products with the maternal circulation. The umbilical cord is joined to the foetus on the abdomen (the navel), & to the uterine wall (endometrium) via the placenta, an organ which interfaces the 2 circulatory systems. The role of the placenta is complex: apart from acting as a filter, it performs as a multiple organ system during early development. It also supports the mother by synthesising a range of hormones (in a similar fashion to the pituitary gland).
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