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In Depth: Organs

Organs in our chests are responsible for a multitude of functions: They make you breathe. They make your blood circulate. They deliver oxygenated blood to your entire body. They detoxify your blood. And they produce cells to keep you healthy.

The circulatory system does most of its work inside the chest. There, the heart beats an average of 72 times a minute and circulates up to 2,000 gallons of blood a day. Through various networks of arteries and veins, the circulatory system delivers oxygenated blood and important nutrients throughout your body.

Just inside the chest, the heart circulates blood from around the body to the lungs, where the blood receives oxygen from capillaries.

Every breath you take pulls oxygen into your lungs to supply the body with oxygenated blood. As you exhale, you excrete carbon dioxide, a waste gas produced by the body’s functioning.

After becoming oxygenated in the lungs, blood goes back to the heart and then out to major arteries such as the ascending and descending aortas.

The aortas quickly deliver the blood to other parts of the body, but the chest uses much of it, too.

One important organ in the chest is the thymus, a small butterfly-shaped organ located between the heart and the sternum, or breastbone. This organ belongs to the immune system, and its job is to produce and educate T cells, a type of white blood cell. These are formally known as T lymphocytes; the “T” stands for thymus, where the cells originate.

Basically, the T cell is the soldier the body sends to destroy invaders. The thymus not only creates the soldiers, but also “trains” those not quite ready for battle. When the thymus is finished with a cell, it is a multifunctional, adaptable invader-killing machine.

Also on defense inside the chest is the liver, the body’s largest glandular organ. It supports nearly every organ in the body in some facet. Among its functions are blood detoxification, fat breakdown, and old blood cell destruction.

The liver also creates bile, which helps the stomach digest food through a cocktail of enzymes and acids.

Both the liver and the stomach are located in the lower chest region under the thoracic diaphragm, a sheet of muscle at the bottom of the rib cage. Your diaphragm aids in your breathing. 

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