The Respiratory System
Cells continually use oxygen for the metabolic reactions that release energy from nutrientmolecules and produce ATP. At the same time, these reactions release carbon dioxide. Sincean excessive amount of carbon dioxide is toxic to cells, the excess carbon dioxide must beeliminated quickly and efficiently. The two systems that cooperate to supply oxygen andeliminate carbon dioxide are the cardiovascular system and the respiratory system. Therespiratory system provides for gas exchange, intake of oxygen, and elimination of carbondioxide. The cardiovascular system transports the gases in the blood between the lungs andbody cells. In addition to functioning in gas exchange, the respiratory system also containsreceptors for the sense of smell, filters inspired air, produces sounds, and helps eliminatewastes.
Exchange of Gases
is the exchange of gases between the atmosphere, blood, and cells. It takesplace in three basic steps:
is the exchange between the external environment and the bloodthat takes place in the lungs.
is the gaseous exchange between the blood and the cells of thebody.
or oxidation occurs within the mitochondria of the cell.Respiration begins as air is inhaled through the nose and passes through the nasal cavitywhere it is warmed, moistened, and filtered. It passes from the pharynx and larynx and into thetrachea. The trachea divides into two bronchi, which subdivide into the smaller and smaller branches of the bronchial tree. The air moves through the bronchioles until it reaches the endsof the air passages that terminate in clusters of air sacs called
. Capillaries of thepulmonary circulatory system surround the thin porous walls of the alveoli. The blood enteringthe lungs through the pulmonary arteries has a high concentration of carbon dioxide that hasbeen picked up from the cells of the body and a low concentration of oxygen. The concentrationof oxygen in the alveoli is greater than in the blood. Conversely, concentrations of carbondioxide in the blood are higher than in the alveoli. Therefore, through the process of
,carbon dioxide moves from the blood to the lungs and is exhaled while oxygen moves from thelungs into the bloodstream and is carried by the red blood cells back to the heart and thencirculated throughout the body.Oxygenated blood moves into the capillaries of the general circulation. Differences in theconcentration of the gases between the blood and tissue fluid cause oxygen to diffuse into thetissue fluid while carbon dioxide diffuses out of the fluid and into the blood. A similar diffusionprocess takes place between the tissue fluid and the cells.Once in the cells, the oxygen is used in aerobic cellular respiration within the mitochondriaof cells to produce energy. Some of this energy is used by the cells of the body to perform work.The rest of the energy is released in the form of heat. The waste products of energy productioninclude carbon dioxide and water, which migrate back into the bloodstream to be eliminated.The red blood cells and the plasma carry the carbon dioxide to the lungs, where it diffuses out of the blood into the alveoli to be expelled from the lungs with the next exhalation.
Mechanism of Breathing
External respiration, also called
, involves the act of inhaling andexhaling air, resulting in an exchange of gases between the blood and air sacs. With each