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The Urinary System

Kidneys are located in the lower back, this is not their location. Instead, these small, dark red organs
with a kidney-bean shaped lie against the dorsal body wall in a retroperitoneal position in the superior
lumbar region. The kidneys extend from the T12 to L3 veterbrae thus they receive some protection
from the lower part of the rib cage.
When a kidney is cut lengthwise, three distinct regions become apparent. The outer region which is
light in color, is the renal cortex. Deep to the cortex is a darker reddish-brown area, the renal medulla.
The medulla is triangular regions with a striped appearance, the medullary pyramids.
The broader base of each pyramid faces toward the inner region of the kidney. The pyramids are
separated by extensions of cortex-like tissue, the renal columns. Medial to the hilus is a flat, basinlike
cavity, the renal pelvis. The pelvis is continuous with the ureter leaving the hilus. Extensions of the
pelvis, calyces, form cup-shaped areas that enclose the tips of the pyramid. The calyces collect urine,
which continuously drains from the tips of the pyramids into the renal pelvis. Urine then flows from
the pelvis into te ureter, which transports it to the bladder.

Blood supply
The kidneys continuously cleanse the blood and adjust its composition, so it is not suprising that
kidney have a very rich blood supply. Approximately one-quarter of the total blood supply of the body
passes through the kidneys each minute. The arterial supply of each kidney is the renal artery. As the
renal artery approaches the hilus, it divides into segmental arteries. Once inside the pelvis, the
segmental artery break up into lobar arteries, each of which gives off several branches called
interlobar arteries. At the medulla-cortex junction, interlobar arteries give off the acuate arteries,
which curve over the medullary pyramids.
Venous blood draining from the kidney flows through veins that trace the pathway of the arterial blood
supply but in reverse direction interlobular veins to arcuate veins to interlobar veins to the renal
vein, which emerges from the kidney hilus.

Nephrons and Urine Formation

Each kidney contain over a million tiny structures called nephrons. Nephrons are the structural and
functional units of the kidneys and as such they are responsible for forming the urine product. Each
nephron consist of two main structures: a glomerulus, which is a knot of capillaries, and a renal
tubule. Bowmans capsule a cup-shaped and completely surrounds the glomerulus. The inner layer of
the capsule is made up of higly modified octupuslike cells called podocytes. Podocytes have long
branching processes called pedicels that interwine with one another and cling to the glomerulus.
The different tubules have specific names: proximal convoluted tubule (PCT), loop of henle, and the
distal convoluted tubule (DCT)

Most nephrons are called cortical nephrons because they are located almost entirely within the cortex.
In a few cases, the nephrons are called juxtamedullary nephrons because they are situated close to the
cortex-medulla junction. The collecting ducts, each of which receives urine from many nephrons, run
downward through the medullary pyramids, delivering the final urine product into calyces and renal
The glomerulus is both fed and drained by arterioles. The afferent arteriole, which arises from an
interlobular artery. The efferent arteriole receives blood that has passed through the glomerulus.

Urine Formation
Urine formation is a result of three processes filtration, reabsorption, and secretion.

1.) Filtration is a nonselective, passive process. The filtrate that is formed is essentially blood plasma without
blood proteins. Both protein and blood cells are normally too large to pass through the filtration
membrane. As long as the systematic blood pressure is normal, filtrate will be formed. If arterial blood
pressure drops too low, the glomerular pressure becomes inadequate to force substance out of the
blood into the tubules, and filtrate formation stops. (water and solutes)

2.) Reabsoption Tubular reabsoption begins as soon as the filtrate enters the proximal convoluted tubule. The
tubule cells are transporters taking up needed substance from the filtrate and then passing them out
their posterior aspects into the extra cellular space. (water, glucose, amino acids)

3.) Secretion Tubular secretion is essentially reabsorption in reverse. This process seems to be important for
getting rid of substances such as drugs etc.