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Respiration in Humans Description:

Respiratory system provides oxygen to all the cells of our body, which results in the synthesis of an energy currency called ATP molecule. Utilization ATP molecule generates energy to drive the endothermic reactions forward.  A respiration cycle – inhalation and exhalation result in the exchange of gasses taking place in small tubes called as alveoli.


Respiration in Humans

Most of the vital life processes take place in the presence of oxygen molecule and hence it is known as aerobic respiration, while those that take place in the absence of oxygen are known as anaerobic respiration. The carbohydrates that we consume are broken down into simpler substances like glucose by the digestive system.

The glucose molecules are delivered to all cells of the body.  These glucose molecules are further broken down into pyruvate, a 3-carbon compound. In the presence of oxygen, the pyruvate is further converted to ethanol and carbon dioxide. This process usually takes place in the mitochondria. However, in the absence of oxygen, the pyruvate molecule is converted to lactic acid. During aerobic and anaerobic respiration process, energy is released.

The energy released in an aerobic process is greater than the energy released by the anaerobic process. This energy is immediately utilized by the cell for the formation of a molecule called ATP. ATP acts as a fuel, providing energy to the cells and to the activities of our body.

ATP: ATP is the energy currency of our cell. During cell activities, the ATP is broken down using water to release energy equivalent to ~30KJ/mol, which helps in driving the endothermic reactions of the cell.


Exchange of gasses:      

Thus, it is now understood that we require oxygen to create energy for all our cell and body activities.  In all organisms, there is a constant undergoing exchange process of carbon dioxide and oxygen gas. Plants respire through stomatal pores present in the leaves and diffuse the oxygen from the atmospheric air into leaves.

The leaves also are responsible for taking in the carbon dioxide for the photosynthesis process and release oxygen during this process. In organisms like fishes, the organ responsible for the exchange of gasses is gills. The gills take up the dissolved oxygen present in the water and release carbon dioxide during expiration process. Animals like frogs respire through skin and nostrils.

Humans have a higher level of a respiratory system. The respiratory system of humans consists of nostrils lined with fine hairs and mucous. The air that we breathe is passed down from the nostrils to the upper respiratory tract consisting of larynx, pharynx, and trachea. The trachea is further divided into two bronchi – right bronchial and left bronchi.

The bronchi end up in lungs which have small balloon-like structures called alveoli. The alveoli are primarily responsible for the exchange of gasses. The alveoli are surrounded by numerous blood vessels, which transport the oxygen-rich air across various cells of the body and collect the carbon dioxide from the cells and drain into the alveoli tubes.

Since the diffusion pressure of oxygen is high, it cannot be directly delivered to the cells. Hence, a respiratory pigment called hemoglobin is present in the blood which binds to the oxygen and delivers to different cells of our body. The hemoglobin, present in red blood corpuscles (RBCs) of the blood is responsible for the red color of our blood.