Shuling Fan, Research Investigator, Internal Medicine (Margolis Laboratory), Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan Medical School
As we breathe, we bring not only air, but dust, bacteria and other unwanted material into our lungs. Thus, the body needs a way to clear this respiratory garbage. This is the job of specialized cells that line the airway; these cells have many bristle-like appendages called "cilia" (purple/blue) on their surface. The cilia from many cells actually beat in a coordinated fashion to literally sweep bacteria, dust and dead cells up the airway and out of the lung. Nuclei of the many airway cells that do not contain cilia are shown in orange. In asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the ciliary function is impaired.