Structure.—Each lateral lobe is composed of numerous lobules held together by delicate areolar tissue; the entire gland being enclosed in an investing capsule of a similar but denser structure. The primary lobules vary in size from that of a pin’s head to that of a small pea, and are made up of a number of small nodules or follicles, which are irregular in shape and are more or less fused together, especially toward the interior of the gland. Each follicle is from 1 to 2 mm. in diameter and consists of a medullary and a cortical portion, and these differ in many essential particulars from each other. The cortical portion is mainly composed of lymphoid cells, supported by a network of finely branched cells, which is continuous with a similar network in the medullary portion. This network forms an adventitia to the bloodvessels. In the medullary portion the reticulum is coarser than in the cortex, the lymphoid cells are relatively fewer in number, and there are found peculiar nest-like bodies, the concentric corpuscles of Hassall. These concentric corpuscles are composed of a central mass, consisting of one or more granular cells, and of a capsule which is formed of epithelioid cells. They are the remains of the epithelial tubes which grow out from the third branchial pouches of the embryo to form the thymus.
Each follicle is surrounded by a vascular plexus, from which vessels pass into the interior, and radiate from the periphery toward the center, forming a second zone just within the margin of the medullary portion. In the center of the medullary portion there are very few vessels, and they are of minute size.