What are the structures in the respiratory system and how do they work together?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The respiratory system is responsible for taking in and distributing oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide.  Oxygen been vital to the survival of the human body, the health of the respiratory system is obviously seriously important.

The center of respiratory system is the lungs, which take in oxygen while releasing carbon dioxide, a toxic substance if contained within human tissue.  While the lungs are the most obvious and physically substantial component of the respiratory system, however, there are many other components that function in relation to the lungs.  Nasal passages and the mouth are both main avenues for the intake of oxygen and the expulsion of carbon dioxide.  Once air has entered the body through one or both of those passages, it travels through the pharynx and down the larynx and trachea, which is the tube that connects these upper components with the lungs.  The oxygen that enters through the nasal and oral passages is absorbed in the lungs and transmitted into the blood stream.  Red blood cells collect the oxygen and transport it throughout the body.  The pulmonary venule carries oxygenated blood to the heart, and the pulmonary arteriole transports deoxygenated blood away from the heart.  These run along the length of the trachea into the lungs.  At the base the lungs is the alveoli, which exchanges the oxygen and carbon dioxide. 

Finally, the diaphragm, a muscle stretched across the upper abdominal region at the outer base of the lungs that helps the lungs to function by providing them the strength needed to expel the carbon dioxide.

These are the components of the respiratory system.  As with other systems within the body – circulatory, central nervous – the ability of the respiratory system of function is contingent upon each component functioning properly.  While people can and do live with one functioning lung, it is a “system” in the truest sense of the word.  All parts must function in relation to each other.