General Knowledge

What are fingernails and toenails made of?

Nails – our body part. We have ten finger nails and ten toe nails. We don’t bother much about our nails. Some people like to grow nails and like to colour nails. We can pinch with our nails. That’s all; there is nothing special to say about them.

But isn’t it amazing to think that nails grow continuously, we don’t feel pain when we cut our nails and we do not bleed. Can you tell me what kind of substances our nails are made up of?
Let’s find out the answers to these queries.

Nails are hard coverings on tips of our fingers and toes. You may have seen claws of cats or your pet puppies. Our nails perform a similar function. But, do you know that nails are made of a special type of protein, called alpha-Keratin. This is a tough protective protein and it is made of dead cells. Our hair is also made of this same substance. And this is the reason behind the fact that we do not feel any pain when we cut our nails or hair.

From the above picture, it is easily understandable that free edge is the part which grows beyond the finger tips and usually we cut this part of the nail.
The portion of the nail, other than free edge is nail plate. The whitish, crescent shaped portion of the finger nail or toe nail, in the opposite edge of free edge is called lunula.
Look at your nail. You will see a very thin line of tissue is attached to the three inner edges of your nail plate and this is called cuticle. The cuticle is made up of dead cells.

Source

Now, if nails are made of dead cells, then how do they grow? Nails have roots, hidden under the cuticle, called the matrix (as shown in picture above). When new nail cells grow, they push up the older cells towards the fingertip and slowly the nail grows out of the fingertip. When older cells are pushed up the older cells, then older cells become hardened and die.

Now you may ask what the functions of nails are. An immediate answer will be nails are used to scratch and pick up fine objects. Not only that, but nails also protect our finger tips from external injury.
Nail colour or nail type may indicate your health and can help to diagnose you. So nails can be regarded as important body part.

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Susmita Dasgupta

Susmita is a trained, veteran primary school teacher. She loves to teach and to make learning exciting for children. One of her great passions in life is to create in her students a curiosity about life and all its accompanying mysteries.

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