There is still some controversy as to whether sacral spina bifida in humans is the result of a defect of the primary or secondary neural tube. As somites are related to the development of vertebrae and the primary neural tube is related to the development of the spinal cord in embryos, it is very important to determine the number of somites in normal human embryos at the time of closure of the primary neural tube to understand the contribution of primary neural tube defects to the development of spina bifida. However, in the literature, the number of somites in stage 12 human embryos is still controversial. The aim of this study is to find the number of somites in human embryos at Carnegie stage 12. Four human embryos at Carnegie stage 12 were selected from the laboratory of the Congenital Anomaly Research Center in Japan. The neural tube and somites were reconstructed from their slices by a three-dimensional computer graphic reconstruction technique. The reconstructed embryos were examined from multidirectional magnified images. Thirty-three pairs of somites were present in all these reconstructed embryos. As the 33rd pair of somites corresponds to the fifth sacral segment, the presence of 33 pairs of somites at Carnegie stage 12 suggests that spina bifida develops from defects of the primary neural tube.
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