These tiny organelles, although invisible to the naked eye, play a major role in our respiratory system's functioning. Let's see what they are and do.
The cilia are short, hairlike outgrowths of certain cells, usually single cells, capable of rhythmic beating. They can produce locomotion and feeding currents or the movement of fluids, as in the respiratory ducts of animals and humans. These outgrowths measure approximately 5-10 micrometers from the cell body. Some cilia cells are anchored in a tissue, for example, the epithelial cells which line our respiratory system organs. The bending of cilia has many parallels to the contraction of muscle fibers. They play a very important role in maintaining healthy the respiratory organs they serve.
Types of cilia
There are, basically, two types of cilia: those capable of motion, called motile cilia and the non-motile, or primary cilia. The latter typically plays a sensory role. These two types of cilia are part of the undulipodia organelle classification.
Cilia of the respiratory system
The membranes lining the lungs, the sinus and nasal cavities, bronchi, and other respiratory organs, contain many of those tiny hair like cilia which, acting like small oars, move fluids, mucus, foreign particles, viruses, bacteria, and phlegm in the lower respiratory organs and most of the upper's. Some authorities have gone as far as saying that most respiratory organs health problems, or diseases, have their origin in the malfunctioning of the cilia. These extraordinary organisms beat at 16 times per second. In places like the sinuses they move fluids, mucus, particles, etc., in one direction only: toward the nasal cavity, while in other places, like the lungs and bronchi they beat toward the throat.
How to keep cilia healthy
One thing we should always remember is that air, liquid or steam reaching 102° F or above will immobilize the cilia. This has profound significance because it could, if kept long enough, compromise the health of your breathing system. So, next time you do steam inhalations, spray your nose or use some OTC remedies, please remember that those tiny hairlike friends we have in our breathing organs don't like high temperature or strong chemicals.