Respiration (physiology)

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Overview

In animal physiology, respiration is the transport of oxygen from the ambient air to the tissue cells and the transport of carbon dioxide in the opposite direction. This is in contrast to the biochemical definition of respiration, which refers to cellular respiration: the metabolic process by which an organism obtains energy by reacting oxygen with glucose to give water, carbon dioxide and ATP (energy). Although physiologic respiration is necessary to sustain cellular respiration and thus life in animals, the processes are distinct: cellular respiration takes place in individual cells of the animal, while physiologic respiration concerns the bulk flow and transport of metabolites between the organism and external environment.

In unicellular organisms, simple diffusion is sufficient for gas exchange: every cell is constantly bathed in the external environment, with only a short distance for gases to flow across. In contrast, complex multicellular organisms such as humans have a much greater distance between the environment and their innermost cells, thus, a respiratory system is needed for effective gas exchange. The respiratory system works in concert with a circulatory system to carry gases to and from the tissues.

In air-breathing vertebrates such as humans, respiration of oxygen includes four stages:

  • Ventilation from the ambient air into the alveoli of the lung.
  • Pulmonary gas exchange from the alveoli into the pulmonary capillaries.
  • Gas transport from the pulmonary capillaries through the circulation to the peripheral capillaries in the organs.
  • Peripheral gas exchange from the tissue capillaries into the cells and mitochondria.

Note that ventilation and gas transport require energy to power mechanical pumps (the diaphragm and heart respectively), in contrast to the passive diffusion taking place in the gas exchange steps.

Respiratory physiology is the branch of human physiology concerned with respiration.

Classifications of respiration

There are several ways to classify the physiology of respiration:

By species

By mechanism

By experiments

By disorders

By medication

By intensive care and emergency medicine

By other medical topics

See also


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