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Biology LibreTexts

9: The Respiratory System

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    • 9.1: Prelude to the Respiratory System
      The air contains oxygen that crosses the lung tissue, enters the bloodstream, and travels to organs and tissues. Oxygen enters the cells where it is used for metabolic reactions that produce ATP, a high-energy compound. At the same time, these reactions release carbon dioxide  as a by-product. Carbon dioxide is toxic and must be eliminated. Carbon dioxide exits the cells, enters the bloodstream, travels back to the lungs, and is expired out of the body during exhalation.
    • 9.2: Systems of Gas Exchange
      The primary function of the respiratory system is to deliver oxygen to the cells of the body’s tissues and remove carbon dioxide, a cell waste product. The main structures of the human respiratory system are the nasal cavity, the trachea, and lungs.
    • 9.3: Gas Exchange across Respiratory Surfaces
      The structure of the lung maximizes its surface area to increase gas diffusion. Because of the enormous number of alveoli (approximately 300 million in each human lung), the surface area of the lung is very large (75 square meters). Having such a large surface area increases the amount of gas that can diffuse into and out of the lungs.
    • 9.4: Breathing
      Mammalian lungs are located in the thoracic cavity where they are surrounded and protected by the rib cage, intercostal muscles, and bound by the chest wall. The bottom of the lungs is contained by the diaphragm, a skeletal muscle that facilitates breathing. Breathing requires the coordination of the lungs, the chest wall, and most importantly, the diaphragm.
    • 9.5: Transport of Gases in Human Bodily Fluids
      Once the oxygen diffuses across the alveoli, it enters the bloodstream and is transported to the tissues where it is unloaded, and carbon dioxide diffuses out of the blood and into the alveoli to be expelled from the body. Although gas exchange is a continuous process, the oxygen and carbon dioxide are transported by different mechanisms.