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Cilia: Description, Function, and Significance

All organisms consist of cells that are the basic units of life. Every cell is a complex structure that includes various fewer components. These elements are called organelles, and cells use them to perform specific jobs. There are many organelles, and cilia are among their number. This research paper will present the description of cilia, comment on their function, highlight their significance, and explain where this organelle is commonly found.

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Firstly, it is necessary to offer a general description of the chosen organelle. According to BD Editors (2017), cilia are protrusions that are placed on the outside of eukaryotic cells. A cilium is a tiny element because it is typically 1-10 micrometers long and less than 1 micrometer wide (Ciliopathy Alliance, n.d.). Scientists admit that these organelles resemble hair or eyelashes because they consist of bodies and multiple protrusions, also known as microtubules, that surround them. As for these microtubules, they follow a specific arrangement in cilia. It refers to the fact that two pairs are inside a cilium, while nine other pairs form an outer ring. This pattern is called a 9+2 arrangement, and Mayer (2019) says that this scheme resembles a wagon wheel. There are two types of cilia, including motile and primary ones. It is necessary to state that primary cilia do not have any microtubules inside them (Ciliopathy Alliance, n.d.). In addition to that, the two types differ in their roles.

Secondly, one should explain what function cilia perform in the organism. According to BD Editors (2017), cilia are responsible for cells’ movement across the organism and substances in the cell. This definition is accurate for motile (moving) cilia that create feeding processes inside an organism (Microscopemaster, n.d.). Motile cilia are also important in the respiratory system because they remove dirt from the lungs. In turn, primary cilia perform a significant detection function in the organism. For example, they analyze chemical factors and morphogens in the extracellular matrix. Microscopemaster (n.d.) explains that these cilia can be found in the kidney tubules where they can cause calcium intake when necessary. This information means that cilia of two types perform essential functions in every organism.

Thirdly, it is necessary to explain the significance of cilia from a different point of view. It refers to the fact that problems with cilia can cause severe consequences for health. When motile and primary cilia are defective, they result in numerous health issues, including blindness, deafness, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, and others (Mayer, 2019). These issues can result in decreased quality or quantity of life. It is so because wrongly functioning cilia can create problems for almost every process in an organism, affecting bones and internal organs (Ciliopathy Alliance, n.d.). Thus, it is impossible to overestimate the significance of cilia, both motile and primary, for the living organism.

Finally, it is reasonable to mention where this organelle is most commonly found. It has been described above that the outside of eukaryotic cells is usually the place of cilia. According to Microscopemaster (n.d.), eukaryotes of higher animals and single-celled organisms have motile cilia, while primary cilia can be found in almost all cells of all mammals. When it comes to human beings, cilia are in the female reproductive and respiratory tracts (Bailey, 2019). That is why one can state that prokaryotes do not have cilia.


Bailey, R. (2019). Cilia and Flagella. Web.

BD Editors. (2017). Cilium. Web.

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Ciliopathy Alliance. (n.d.). Cilia. Web.

Mayer, M. (2019). The Location of Cilia and Flagella. Web.

Microscopemaster. (n.d.). Structure and Functions of Cilia and Flagella. Web.

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