What Is a Syncytium?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 23 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A syncytium is a biological structure located in the body. This is a structure that is cell-like in appearance, although it is not actually a cell. Instead, it is made up of a mass of cytoplasm. This cytoplasm is not divided into individual cells, even though the syncytium mass contains many nuclei.

Cytoplasm is a clear material that resembles the consistency of jelly. This material is typically found inside of a cell. A nucleus, or nuclei in its plural form, is in essence the control center of a cell. It is this combination of cytoplasm and multiple nuclei that differentiate the syncytium from an actual cell.

There are multiple ways that a syncytium can be formed. For instance, many insects originate from this type of structure. This is due to incomplete cell division in the embryonic stage of development. Some types of algae and fungi also exhibit a syncytium as basic cell structure.

The syncytium also plays an important role in the human body. This type of mass develops in the embryonic stage in order to create a barrier between the mother and the unborn baby. This happens when cells from the embryo fuse with cells from the placenta. This helps to control the types of cells that are able to travel between the mother and the developing embryo.

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The syncytium plays a vital role in the function of the skeletal system as well. It is this part of the skeletal system that allows the muscles to coordinate with one another in such a way that rapid contraction becomes possible. This part of the skeletal muscle also helps to prevent cell death in medical conditions such as myopathy.

The heart is another area of the body where the syncytium proves to be an important asset. This type of structure is present in both the atrial and ventricular areas of the heart. The syncytium located in the heart is basically a network of cells known as cardiac muscle cells. The function of this network is to allow all of the cardiac cells to contract at the same time with only the slightest resistance.

While the syncytium is a naturally-occurring part of the body, certain medical conditions can cause abnormal development of this structure in various parts of the body. This is particularly true with conditions such as HIV infection. It is also known to develop in infections such as the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, more commonly known as RSV. Medical intervention is required when this abnormal development occurs.

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