What does hypertrophy mean?

Hypertrophy is an increase in the size of cells that leads to an overall increase in the size of the tissue or organ. It is a non-cancerous change. Another word for hypertrophy is hypertrophic. In contrast to hyperplasia, hypertrophy does not result in an increased number of cells. Skeletal and cardiac muscle cells commonly undergo hypertrophy in response to increased physical demand and stress on the cells. During pregnancy, the muscle cells in the uterus undergo hypertrophy in response to increased hormone stimulation. Hypertrophy is described as physiologic when it helps or improves the way the organ or tissue functions. Hypertrophy is described as pathologic when it is caused by disease or leads to impaired function.

Examples hypertrophy

  • Muscles: Physical exercise leads to skeletal muscle hypertrophy. This makes the muscles stronger and better able to handle physical stress.
  • Uterus: The muscles in the uterus undergo hypertrophy during pregnancy. This allows the uterus to grow along with the developing baby.
  • Heart: The heart can increase in size as a result of physical exercise, long-standing high blood pressure, obstruction to blood flow out of the heart, or genetic conditions that affect the growth of muscle cells in the heart.
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