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Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Lung

The lungs are the primary organs of the respiratory system. The main function of the human
respiratory system is to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the blood, and to expel carbon
dioxide from the body. Healthy levels of oxygen are absolutely crucial for the human body, as oxygen
gives our cells energy and helps them regenerate.

The Anatomy of the Lung


Each lung is divided into lobes. The right lung, which has three lobes, is slightly larger than the left,
which has two. The lungs are housed in the chest cavity, or thoracic cavity, and covered by a
protective membrane called the pleura. The diaphragm, the primary muscle involved in respiration,
separates the lungs from the abdominal cavity.

The pulmonary arteries carry de-oxygenated blood from the right ventricle of the heart to the lungs.
The pulmonary veins, on the other hand, carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart, so it can
be pumped to the rest of the body.
How the Lungs Work
The lungs expand upon inhalation, or inspiration, and fill with air. They then return to their resting
volume and push air out upon exhalation, or expiration. These two movements make up the process
of breathing, or respiration.

The respiratory system contains several structures. When you breathe, the lungs facilitate this
process:

1. Air comes in through the mouth and/or nose, and travels down through the trachea, or
"windpipe." This air travels down the trachea into two bronchi, one leading to each lung. The
bronchi then subdivide into smaller tubes called bronchioles. The air finally fills the alveoli,
which are the small air sacs at the ends of the bronchioles.
2. In the alveoli, the lungs facilitate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the
blood. Adult lungs have hundreds of alveoli, which increase the lungs' surface area and speed
this process. Oxygen travels across the membranes of the alveoli and into the blood in the tiny
capillaries surrounding them.
3. Oxygen molecules bind to hemoglobin in the blood and are carried throughout the body. This
oxygenated blood can then be pumped to the body by the heart.
4. The blood also carries the waste product carbon dioxide back to the lungs, where it is
transferred into the alveoli in the lungs to be expelled through exhalation.

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