This cell is a respiratory epithelial cell obtained after performing a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). A BAL is a procedure during which a bronchoscope is passed into the small bronchi of the lung and used to squirt fluid into the tube which is then collected for analysis.
The fluid contains the cells of the bronchus epithelium, like the cell seen here.
Despite its muppet-like appearance this cell is perfectly normal. It is a columnar cell with a large basal nucleus (Beaker’s mouth) and its apical surface is covered in cilia (Beaker’s wild red hair).
Cilia are very important structures in the respiratory tract. They are motile structures that sway with a metachronal rhythm to produce a unidirectional traveling wave along the epithelial surface of the bronchus. This wave, in conjunction with the mucus secreted by surrounding goblet cells and submucosal glands, traps and propels any tiny inhaled particles/microbes out of the airway so they can be coughed up or swallowed. The mechanism is known in the physiology world as the “mucociliary escalator”. Without it those particles would end up in your alveoli resulting in chronic lung infections and possibly death.
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