Respiratory System

Conductive Structures in the Lung

Your lungs contain almost 1500 miles of airways and over 300 million alveoli

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Conductive structures of a size down to ~1 mm main bronchi: a result of the bifurcation of the lung

Their histological structure corresponds largely to that of the trachea. divide into lobar bronchi which in turn give rise to segmental bronchi (tertiary).

segmental bronchi: supply the bronchopulmonary segments of the lungs

Bronchial branches are accompanied by branches of the pulmonary artery, nerves and lymph vessels. These structures usually travel in intersegmental and interlobar sheets of connective tissue

bronchi are characterized by the presence of glands and supporting cartilage. The cartilage supporting the bronchi is typically found in several small pieces.

The histological structure of the epithelium and the underlying connective tissue of the bronchi corresponds largely to that of the trachea and the main bronchi In addition, bronchi are surrounded by a layer of smooth muscle, which is located between the cartilage and epithelium.

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smaller than ~1 mm are the terminal segments of the conductive portion. epithelium change to a ciliated columnar epithelium, but most of the cell types found in the epithelium of other parts of the conductive portion are still present. Glands and cartilage are absent. The layer of smooth muscle is relatively thicker than in the bronchi.

Respiratory Structures in the Lung

respiratory bronchioles
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result from the division of the bronchioles are the first structures that belong to the respiratory portion of the respiratory system Small outpouchings of the walls of the respiratory bronchioles the site of gas exchange The number increases as the respiratory bronchioles continue to divide. They terminate in alveolar ducts. The "walls" of alveolar ducts consists entirely of alveoli.


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Histological Structure of Alveoli

The wall is formed by a thin sheet (~2µm) of tissue separating two neighbouring alveoli. This sheet is formed by epithelial cells and intervening connective tissue. Collagenous (few and fine), reticular and elastic fibers are present.

microscopic view of alveoli

Between the connective tissue fibers we find a dense, anastomosing network of pulmonary capillaries whose walls are in direct contact with the epithelial lining of the alveoli. The basal laminae of the epi- and endothelium may actually fuse. Neighbouring alveoli may be connected to each other by small alveolar pores

The epithelium of the alveoli is formed by two cell types:
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Alveolar type I cells Alveolar type II cells

Alveolar type I cells (small alveolar cells or type I pneumocytes)

are extremely flattened (the cell may be as thin as 0.05 µm) and form the bulk (95%) of the surface of the alveolar walls. The shape of the cells is very complex, and they may actually form part of the epithelium on both faces of the alveolar wall.

Alveolar type II cells (large alveolar cells or type II pneumocytes)
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are irregularly (sometimes cuboidal) shaped. They form small bulges on the alveolar walls. contain large number of granules called cytosomes (or multilamellar bodies), which consist of precursors to pulmonary surfactant (the mixture of phospholipids which keep surface tension in the alveoli low). Their small contribution to alveolar area is explained by their shape.

Cilia are absent from the alveolar epithelium and cannot help to remove particulate matter which continuously enters the alveoli with the inspired air. Alveolar macrophages take care of this job. They migrate freely over the alveolar epithelium and ingest particulate matter. Towards the end of their life span, they migrate either towards the bronchioles, where they enter the mucus lining the epithelium to be finally discharged into the pharynx, or they enter the connective tissue septa of the lung.

Development of the Lungs

The formation of the lower respiratory passages begins in the fourth fetal week. An outpouching of the foregut gives rise to the laryngotracheal tube. The lining of this tube will eventually give rise to the epithelia covering the surfaces of the larynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli. Most of the other tissues of the lower respiratory passages are derived from splanchnic mesoderm. The laryngotracheal tube divides distally to form two lung buds.

Dependent of the state of maturity of the lung, development is divided into three periods:

glandular period

lasts until ~17th fetal week bronchi grow and branch no alveoli present yet Bronchi and bronchioles expand and branch lung tissue is vascularized Bronchi and bronchioli begin to form terminal sacs (developing primitive alveoli) Respiration becomes possible towards the end of this period around the 25th foetal week.

canalicular period
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alveolar period (sometimes also considered a separate period of lung development and called terminal sac period)
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number of terminal sacs increases during initial period capillary network is developing between the terminal sacs. The late alveolar period is marked by the development of mature alveoli from the terminal sacs. The period begins shortly before birth, but the first mature alveoli appear only after birth. Alveolar sacs continue to be formed during early childhood (up to year 8) and mature into alveoli. Alveolar maturation and growth continue for another decade, but their numbers do not increase further.


Why Do I Yawn?

When you are sleepy or drowsy the lungs do not take enough oxygen from the air. This causes a shortage of oxygen in our bodies. The brain senses this shortage of oxygen and sends a message that causes you to take a deep long breath---a YAWN.

It is possible that yawns are contagious because at one time in evolutionary history, the yawn served to coordinate the social behavior of a group of animals. When one member of the group yawned to signal an event, all the other members of the group also yawned. Yawns may still be contagious these days because of a leftover response (a "vestigial" response) that is not used anymore. None of this has been proven true and yawns are still one of the mysteries of the mind.

New Word: Pandiculation

Pandiculation is the act of stretching and yawning.

Why Do I Sneeze?

Sneezing is like a cough in the upper breathing passages. It is the body's way of removing an irritant from the sensitive mucous membranes of the nose. Many things can irritate the mucous membranes. Dust, pollen, pepper or even a cold blast of air are just some of the many things that may cause you to sneeze.

What Causes Hiccups?

Hiccups are the sudden movements of the diaphragm. It is involuntary --you have no control over hiccups, as you well know. There are many causes of hiccups. The diaphragm may get irritated, you may have eaten to fast, or maybe some substance in the blood could even have brought on the hiccups.