Alveoli, Emphysema, Illustration

Alveoli, Emphysema, Illustration

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Credit: Monica Schroeder/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Illustration depicting emphysema, a condition characterized by damage to the alveoli. Normal alveoli are shown at left, and damaged alveoli with cavities at right. Alveoli are the small air sacs at the end of the respiratory tree (in the lungs). Long term exposure to compounds found in cigarette smoke (such as carbon monoxide and cyanide) are believed to be responsible for loss of elasticity in the alveoli, leading to emphysema and other lung diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

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