What are the Major Organs of the Body, and what are Their Functions?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An organ is a collection of cells which group together to perform a function. These cells are often highly specialized tissues, designed for extremely exact and demanding tasks. Numerous organs in the bodies of all animals work together to keep them alive and healthy, and the most prominent of these organs are sometimes called the “major organs.” Although these organs are the most well known, they are not necessarily the most important, as it is the efforts of all the organs of the body which lead to well being.

The brain serves as the control center of the body.
The brain serves as the control center of the body.

From the top down, the first of the major organs is the brain. The brain serves as a control center for the body, handling the processes of the central nervous system as well as cognition. The complexity of the brain is extremely varied between different species. Next are the eyes, organs which can detect light and convert it into electrical signals which we know as vision.

The human heart pumps blood through the circulatory system.
The human heart pumps blood through the circulatory system.

In the chest cavity, a number of major organs can be found. The heart pumps blood throughout the body, using the circulatory system as a conduit. The lungs intake air and contribute to the oxygenation of blood. They also act as filters, trapping environmental contaminants which might otherwise enter the bloodstream.

A diagram of a kidney, a major part of the urinary system.
A diagram of a kidney, a major part of the urinary system.

Further down in the chest cavity, the digestive system involves a number of important organs, starting with the stomach, which maintains an acidic environment designed to break foods down so that they can be processed by the intestines. The intestines extract usable nutrition from food, ultimately expelling the waste through the anus.

Several abdominal organs, including the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.
Several abdominal organs, including the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.

A number of major organs are designed as filters, such as the liver and kidneys. These organs also perform other metabolic tasks, such as maintaining the electrolyte balance in the kidneys, or generating bile in the case of the liver. Kidneys link to another important organ, the bladder, which expels waste fluids from the body. The spleen breaks down old blood cells and stores blood, as well as participating in a small way in the production of fresh blood. The pancreas produce enzymes and hormones which help the body run smoothly.

The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.
The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.

All of these major organs would be fairly useless without the framework of the body, provided by the bones. In addition to providing support for the body and giving it a shape, bones also store minerals and produce fresh blood. Finally, all of the major organs are covered by the skin, the largest organ, which consists of multiple layers of protective cells. The skin insulates the body from the outside world, absorbs small amounts of nutrients, and processes vitamins B and D. It also helps to regulate the temperature of the body, and plays a major role in sensation through very sensitive receptor cells.

An illustration of a human stomach.
An illustration of a human stomach.
Organ transplants may become necessary when bodily organs fail.
Organ transplants may become necessary when bodily organs fail.
The intestines extract nutrition from food and expel the rest as waste.
The intestines extract nutrition from food and expel the rest as waste.
The pancreas gland aids in digestion and produces insulin.
The pancreas gland aids in digestion and produces insulin.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon993352

The doctors discovered a carcinoid tumor behind my right kidney. He said it is not attached to my kidney. Can it be attached to just skin between my kidney and back? I go for a biopsy next week.

Ana1234

@SunDevils11 - There might be several reasons you're having a bad reaction to the sun. I know I was on a medication a while ago that made me more photosensitive. And there are definitely diseases and disorders that affect the skin. If you look at human anatomy and major organs I think a lot of the time they all get similar problems (like cancer, for example).

Although I'm not sure that kind of scarring (which my mother also has) is a problem with receptors. I think the body just overreacts in general.

MrsPramm

@anon173002 and anon163809 - It's probably just what they call a stitch, which is what happens when you exercise when you've got some food in your stomach. Your stomach tries to make you stop running, or whatever, because it wants the energy in order to work.

It's possible that it could be something else, like a hernia, but people usually have other symptoms if they have other problems and it would be a more severe pain.

I don't suggest running through it though and hoping it will go away. Generally, you need to either take it easy until it goes away or just be careful to run on an empty stomach in the first place. At any rate you don't need to worry about it being serious.

croydon

anon218121 - Unfortunately that sounds like the kind of assignment where you really have to just read your notes. The term "function" can have different meanings in different contexts. If it was the functions of the stomach, for example, you might either look at what the stomach does or why it does it.

But to ask what the functions of the body are is a huge question. You can answer by talking about metabolism and how food is digested to create energy, or you can talk about how muscles work to create movement, or any number of things. It sounds like they have a number of specific answers that they are looking for and if you don't figure those out, you won't pass.

anon218121

I need some help here. I have a major project on the body system and its functions and I'm new in that class. They have been working on that project since last week and today was my first day and they partnered me with two kids and they gave me this one to do and it says to find out four functions of the body and to say what I learned and I can't read my notes so it's going to be a challenge.

anon173002

i get a pain in my lower abdomen when i exercise. do you know what this is?

anon167116

to anon keep running. it will quit.

anon163809

i have a pain in my lower right part of my body, especially when working out. I have tried to ignore it for a few days but it keeps bugging me. what should i do?

SunDevils11

Since the skin is considered an organ, like a kidney or heart, does it have its own disorders? I know cancer can start on the skin, just like any other organ, but what about any problems with receptors? Like my body has a problem recognizing when a cut is healed, so it adds scar tissue over scar tissue until I have several layers. My doctor suggests skin graphs from my buttocks, but I decline because that would cause horrible scaring on that area as well. Also, I have bad reactions to direct sunlight; could that be a skin disorder or an allergy to the sun?

motherteresa

In the past we used to think that the brain is like a computer. We have since found out that each brain cell acts like a computer, a separate computer, according to a brain researcher. What a complicated, high efficiency organ.

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