Flagella and cilia are two very similar organelles that "beat" to move cells and to propel fluid over tissues. They are highly conserved, being found in organisms ranging from prokaryotes to plant and animal eukaryotes. In humans, cilia are present in almost every organ, and several human conditions involve dysfunctional cilia; for example, lateralization defects, where the positions of organs are reversed, and primary ciliary dyskinesia, a rare condition where patients suffer from recurrent respiratory infections. In this article, we will discuss how information gained from studies on algae has aided research into these human diseases. These studies found a variety of functions that was previously unsuspected, renewing interest in cilia.