Throughout your body, cilia (protrusions on cells, singular cilium) are monitoring the environment and sweeping your passages clean.

Live Science posted an article about cilia.  The simple-looking hairlike projections on cells are anything but simple.  “These hairs are tiny, but mighty,” the article began.  Your life depends on them.

Here are some wonders of cilia:

  • “A single cilium is made up of some 600 protein pieces—more than many other cellular structures.”
  • Primary cilia (non-motile) act like antennae, sensing the external environment.  Filled with proteins that amplify the signal, they act as a communications hub for the cell.
  • During development, motile cilia direct the liver on the right side of the body and the heart on the left.
  • Cilia sweep the airways clean of mucus by moving in concert in a wave-like motion.
  • Motile cilia direct the female egg to the uterus.  An extra-long cilium propels a sperm cell toward the egg.  (This is called a flagellum but does not work the same as the rotary flagellum found in bacteria.)
  • Cilia “circulate the fluid needed for proper brain function.”
  • “More than a dozen rare but serious genetic disorders stem from cilia glitches.”….

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