Basement Membrane: Function, Definition & Structure

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  • 0:00 Meet the Basement Membrane
  • 0:40 The Skin's Anchoring System
  • 1:25 Elsewhere in the Body
  • 1:55 A Protective Barrier
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lori Holloway
Basement membranes attach layers of tissues in the body. Learn how the basement membrane helps our skin counteract the effects of gravity and explore its various other functions in this lesson.

Meet the Basement Membrane

Why doesn't our skin fall completely off our bodies? This might seem like a strange question, but think about it.

The results of gravity's constant downward pull on our face, shoulders, back, neck, chest, organs, legs, and feet are obvious to most of us, especially as we age. And nowhere is this more obvious than our skin. In fact, the occasional face-lift, a little Botox, creams, serums, and muscle exercises have become a national obsession as people try to tighten sagging, drooping skin.

But why is it sagging? Why doesn't it just fall right off the body? Meet the basement membrane.

The Skin's Anchoring System

Your skin has three layers. The outer layer, called the epidermis, is composed of epithelial cells. This is the part of the skin that's visible to the eye and probably peels off in sheets if you've had too much fun in the sun.

The middle layer is the dermis and is composed of connective tissue. This is where you find all the good stuff: blood vessels, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and temperature sensors. The third and lowest layer is the subcutaneous fat layer.

The basement membrane lies between the epidermis and the dermis, keeping the outside layer tightly connected to the inside layer. Not even the effects of gravity can destroy this anchoring system. So, while skin might droop and sag, it won't ever completely fall off.

Elsewhere in the Body

Basement membranes aren't just found in the skin, though. They have important functions all over the body. Any place you find epithelium cells, which cover the inner and outer portions of glands, organs, and structural tissue, and endothelium tissue, which coats the inside of blood vessels, a basement membrane will be in between to hold the layers together.

It might help to think of the basement membrane as the meat in between the two pieces of bread - in this case, the epithelium and endothelium - in a sandwich.

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