Oxygen’s surprisingly complex journey through your body – Enda Butler

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

You breathe in about 17,000 times per day. It’s a process you rarely think about, but behind the scenes, a huge coordinated
effort is playing out. Your vital organs, the gut, brain, bones, lungs, blood, and heart work together to sustain your life by delivering oxygen
to tissues throughout your body. Most of our cells need oxygen because it’s one of the key ingredients
of aerobic respiration. That’s the process that produces
a molecule called ATP, which our cells use to power their
many incredible functions. But getting oxygen throughout our
bodies is a surprisingly difficult task. Gas enters cells by diffusing in
from their surroundings. And that only happens efficiently
over tiny distances. So for oxygen to reach the cells
within our bodies, it needs a transportation network. This is where our 20 trillion
red blood cells come in. Each one contains about 270 million
oxygen-binding molecules of hemoglobin, which is what gives blood its scarlet hue. To make these cells, the body uses
raw materials that become available from
the food we eat. So in some ways, you could say
that oxygen’s journey through the body really begins in the gut. Here, in an amazing display of mechanical
and chemical digestion, food gets broken down into
its smallest elements, like iron, the building block
of hemoglobin. Iron is carried through
the cardiovascular system to the body’s hematopoietic tissue. This tissue is the birthplace
of red blood cells, and it can be found enclosed within
our bone marrow cavities. The kidneys regulate
our levels of red blood cells through the release of erythropoietin, a hormone which causes marrow
to increase production. Our bodies churn out roughly 2.5 million
red blood cells per second, a number equivalent to the entire
population of Paris, so that oxygen that makes it to the lungs
will have ample transportation. But before oxygen
can even reach the lungs, the brain needs to get involved. The brainstem initiates breathing by sending a message
through your nervous system, all the way to muscles
of the diaphragm and ribs. This causes them to contract, thus increasing the space
inside the rib cage, which allows the lungs to expand. That expansion drops your lungs
internal air pressure, making air rush in. It’s tempting to think of our lungs
as two big balloons, but they’re actually a lot more
complicated than that. Here’s why. The red blood cells in the vessels
within your lungs can only pick up oxygen molecules
that are very close to them. If our lungs were shaped like balloons, air that was not in direct contact
with the balloon’s inner surface couldn’t diffuse through. Luckily, our lungs’ architecture ensures
that very little oxygen is wasted. Their interior is divided into
hundreds of millions of miniature balloon-like projections
called alveoli that dramatically increase
the contact area to somewhere around 100 square meters. The alveolar walls are made of
extremely thin flat cells that are surrounded by capillaries. Together, the alveolar wall and
capillaries make a two-cell thick membrane that brings blood and oxygen close enough
for diffusion. These oxygen-enriched cells are then
carried from the lungs through the cardiovascular network, a massive collection of blood vessels
that reaches every cell in the body. If we laid this system out
end to end in a straight line, the vessels would wrap around the Earth
several times. Propelling red blood cells
through this extensive network requires a pretty powerful pump, and that’s where your heart comes in. The human heart pumps an average
of about 100,000 times per day, and it’s the powerhouse that ultimately
gets oxygen where it needs to go, completing the body’s team effort. Just think – this entire complex system
is built around the delivery of tiny molecules of oxygen. If just one part malfunctioned,
so would we. Breathe in. Your gut, brain, bones,
lungs, blood, and heart are continuing their incredible act
of coordination that keeps you alive. Breathe out.

100 thoughts on “Oxygen’s surprisingly complex journey through your body – Enda Butler

  1. To make a long story short and simple:
    -The oxygen in your blood is used up in a process called "Respiration."
    -This process forms Carbon Dioxide.
    -The build up of Carbon Dioxide forms a weak carbonic acid in your blood lowering the PH from 7.4.
    -Sensory neurons pick up on this information and send signals to the Medulla Oblongata. (A part of the brain located in the brain stem which partly controls breathing. There are other parts such as the Pons Varolii)
    -The Medulla Oblongata sends impulses out through motor neurons to the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. (Muscles located between the ribs.)
    -Your chest raises out and up creating less pressure in your lungs which forces air into the lungs.
    -The air goes to the alveoli and defuses into capillaries
    -It then is picked up by hemoglobin to form oxyhemoglobin which is carried to the cells of your body through arteries.
    -The blood goes through arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules and veins until it has returned to the heart and through the pulmonary artery to begin the cycle again.

    I hope someone found this useful! Thanks for reading!

  2. And we are a product of evolution? You must be kidding, so basically nothingness has power to create a system of such complexity?
    Is like you are saying that the smartphone is found on the beach “ somewhere”, and the phone is not so complex
    Definitely someone design the human body

  3. breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths breaths

  4. If I open YouTube on my phone, I sure I am going to watch videos of TED-ED. So funny, so interesting and I also can learn English!😄😄😄😄

  5. this is madness an ordinary humans body does NOT contain enough veins, arteries to wrap around the whole planet earth 3 times ! what is wrong with whoever made this video? An ordinary human body does NOT contain enough veins, arteries to get around even an ordinary kilometer of planet earth!

  6. i have breathing anxiety. yeah.
    i constantly think about my breathing (mostly at night) and worry if im getting enough oxygen and have panic attacks. it sucks.

  7. Your organs works so much for you, to keep you alive. It should be your duty to help it back by exercising, eating healthy food and avoid smoking and drinking. :). Great video TED-Ed

  8. luckily,the architecture of our body makes it happen………….. no pal, divinely designed, never such complicated system was done by chance! lets not even talk about an ameoba with no nervous system that could think of it

  9. What is that painful feeling you get when you breathe in but have air in your stomach? It's a painful feeling that comes from the side of the lungs

  10. So just curious, who fast does this happen? Does it all happen in one breath and then all the excess is breaker out, or how long does it take for the absorbed oxygen to get to my (for example) fingers?

  11. I'm getting little pieces of information every day, but I'm sure I'll ultimately learn how exactly my body works! I love these videos! Keep doing them, please!

  12. “We will show them Our Signs in the universe, and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Quran) is the truth”

    [quran 41:53].

  13. ted-ed has a lot of resources and knowledge; so what's with the distracting music and sound effects. Research points to this being not beneficial and even detrimental to learning

  14. Iam just wondering how many times evolution throw the dice in order to achieve this coordination….. It doesn't make sense to me sorry

  15. Smoking people: we are gonna pay to get ourselves killed and you are gonna have to get affected by its smell too.

  16. This is just incredible (for non medicine students like me)… The complexity of the bodies that genes have created as their survival machines. Keep it up TED-Ed, always bringing us super interesting stuff, thanks!

  17. This is why it is said that all causes of death can ultimately be traced back to: lack of oxygen to the brain.

  18. And Do u still think.. its all somehow Random?
    From the biggest things to the smallest of things,Everything it complex.
    Its impossible to be random. Period
    But whatever,All shall be revealed if we keep putting our effort on finding things.
    You'll know soon enough who was Right.

  19. 3:13 luckily???!
    I don't get how someone thinks all of this crazy complexity is by luck and randomly created!

  20. Our body is really a masterpiece! I wonder who was that intelligent inventor who planned the blueprint?! 😉😉😉

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