Homeostasis and the Kidney

Homeostasis and the Kidney

Homeostasis: Fundamentals

  • Homeostasis is a dynamic equilibrium that maintains the optimal conditions within a cell or organism regardless of external changes.
  • It allows the organism to keep internal functions stable, operating within a narrow range of conditions.
  • It involves a series of self-regulating processes that interact with each other in a regulatory system termed as negative feedback.
  • Organ systems contributing to homeostasis in the human body include the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the urinary system.

Role of the Kidney in Homeostasis

  • The kidney plays a vital role in maintaining homeostasis by regulating the composition and volume of extracellular fluid.
  • It filters out wastes, toxins, and excess ions from the blood, and also maintains the balance of components such as glucose, amino acids, urea and inorganic ions.
  • It helps in regulating blood pH and in osmoregulation, the control of water and electrolyte balance of the body.
  • By producing the enzyme renin, kidneys play a critical role in the regulation of blood pressure.

Anatomy of the Kidney

  • The functional unit of the kidney is the nephron, each kidney contains approximately one million nephrons.
  • A nephron is composed of two major structures: a renal corpuscle (comprising the Glomerulus and Bowman’s capsule) and a renal tubule.
  • The renal tubule consists of the proximal convoluted tubule, the loop of Henle and the distal convoluted tubule.
  • Waste products are filtered from the blood in the glomerulus and pass into the Bowman’s capsule to form a filtrate.

The Process of Urine Production

  • Urine production begins with glomerular filtration, where blood is filtered to produce a filtrate containing various solutes.
  • The next step, tubular reabsorption, removes useful solutes such as glucose, sodium ions, and water from the filtrate, returning them to the blood.
  • Non-essential substances and waste products are secreted into the tubule from the blood during tubular secretion.
  • These processes result in the output of urine, which is excreted through the ureter, bladder, and finally, the urethra.

Responses to Changes in the Internal Environment

  • The kidney responds to changes in the body’s needs, adjusting the volume and the concentration of urine accordingly to maintain homeostasis.
  • For instance, in case of dehydration, the hormone vasopressin (or antidiuretic hormone, ADH) is released which makes the collecting ducts of the kidney more permeable to water. This results in more water being reabsorbed back into the blood, producing a smaller volume of more concentrated urine.
  • Conversely, when a person has consumed excess fluid, the production of ADH is reduced, leading to less water reabsorption and the excretion of a larger volume of dilute urine. Thus, the kidney effectively maintains the body’s water balance through this negative feedback mechanism.