lungs


Written By: Ehsan Jahandarpour

The lung is the essential respiration organ in many air-breathing animals, including most tetrapods, a few fish and a few snails. In mammals and the more complex life forms, the two lungs are located near the backbone on either side of the heart. Their principal function is to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the bloodstream, and to release carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere. A large surface area is needed for this exchange of gases which is accomplished by the mosaic of specialized cells that form millions of tiny, exceptionally thin-walled air sacs called alveoli. To understand the anatomy of the lungs, the passage of air through the nose and mouth to the alveoli must be studied. The progression of air through either the mouth or the nose, travels through the nasopharynx and oropharynx of the pharynx, larynx, and the trachea (windpipe). The air passes down the trachea, which divides into two main bronchi; these branch to the left and right lungs where they progressively subdivide into a system of bronchi and bronchioles until the alveoli are reached. These many alveoli are where the gas exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen takes place. Breathing is driven by muscular action; in early tetrapods, air was driven into the lungs by the pharyngeal muscles via buccal pumping, which is still found in amphibians. Reptiles, birds and mammals use their musculoskeletal system to support and foster breathing. Medical terms related to the lung often begin with pulmo-, such as in the (adjectival form: pulmonary) or from the Latin pulmonarius (“of the lungs”), or with pneumo- (from Greek πνεύμων “lung”).