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Definition of «Sella turcica»

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Sella turcica: The "Turkish saddle" in which sits the pituitary gland.

The sella is a bony box in the middle of the head. It was called the sella turcica (the Turkish saddle) because of its resemblance to a saddle used by the Turks (and Arabs) which had supports in front and back. (By comparison, the Romans had no saddle but simply rode on a cover tied to the back of the horse.)

The "rider" in the sella turcica, the pituitary gland, (sometimes called the master gland) plays a critical role in regulating growth and development, metabolism, and reproduction. It produces a number of hormones including:

  • Growth hormone which regulates growth;
  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropin hormone) which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol;
  • Thyrotropin which signals the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone;
  • Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone which
    • In women, regulate ovulation and estrogen and progesterone production; and
    • In men, regulate sperm formation and testosterone production; and
  • Prolactin which stimulates the breast to produce milk.

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