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The Nephron: The Glomerulus's Major Structures and Functions

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  • 0:40 The Glomerulus
  • 1:01 The Bowman's Capsule
  • 1:27 The Renal Corpuscle
  • 2:04 Afferent and Efferent…
  • 2:38 Ultrafilitration
  • 5:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Together, the glomerulus and Bowman's capsule make up the renal corpuscle of the nephron. These parts of the nephron filter blood and are vital to our body's survival. In this lesson, you'll explore the major corpuscular structures and their functions.

Cardiac Output to the Kidneys

About 25% of your cardiac output goes to your kidneys.
Cardiac Output Percentage

Without a doubt, I'm sure you know that your kidneys are critical for life. In fact, they are so important that every minute about 25% of your heart's output, known as cardiac output, goes to your kidneys. This is because your kidneys are essential in the filtration of blood and the maintenance of water balance throughout your entire body. In this lesson, we'll get into the very first part of your blood's transit through the nephrons, which are the functional units of the kidneys.

The Glomerulus

As blood is pumped out of the heart, it will pass through the aorta before reaching the kidney. Once this blood enters the kidneys, it will eventually enter the first part of each nephron. This part is a network of capillaries responsible for the filtration of blood that is called a glomerulus.

The Bowman's Capsule

Each glomerulus is surrounded by a single layer of epithelium called the Bowman's capsule. If you can imagine inserting your fist into a large water balloon, your fist would be the glomerulus, and the balloon would be the Bowman's capsule enveloping your fist. The space between the sides of the balloon would be called the Bowman's space.

The Renal Corpuscle

Together, the glomerulus and its surrounding Bowman's capsule are called a renal corpuscle. This structure is located in the renal cortex. You should also be aware that the nephron is composed of two main parts: the renal tubule and the renal corpuscle. The renal corpuscle, in essence, is the first structure involved in the nephron's formation of urine, while the renal tubule takes over thereafter. In addition, the renal corpuscle's role is often referred to as the ultrafiltration of blood.

The renal corpuscle is the first structure involved in the formation of urine.
Renal Corpuscle

The Afferent and Efferent Arteriole

At this point, you're probably wondering how the process of ultrafiltration occurs. In essence, blood enters the glomerulus through a small artery supplying the glomerulus with unfiltered blood called the afferent arteriole. Another vessel, a small artery carrying filtered blood away from the glomerulus, is called the efferent arteriole. These two arterioles play a key role in helping the glomeruli's capillaries perform the process of ultrafiltration.

Ultrafiltration

Here's what I mean. If you were to go outside and connect a hose to a faucet and turn the faucet on, water would flow freely out the open end of the hose. If you were to take the open end and close off half of the opening with your finger without adjusting the faucet's output, the pressure inside the hose would increase since the water is being held back from coming out freely and you haven't decreased the amount of water coming into the hose from the faucet.

Likewise, thanks to a pressure difference between the afferent and efferent arterioles, your blood can be filtered by the glomerulus. Normally, the efferent arteriole's lumen, which is the central space where blood flows, is a smaller diameter than the afferent arteriole's lumen. This means that the 'open' end of the hose, the efferent arteriole, is smaller than the faucet's end, the afferent arteriole. This difference creates a sort of back-up of blood in the glomerulus itself, and this back-up of blood means the pressure rises within the glomerulus as it did in our hose.

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