Renal Corpuscles: Definition & Function Video

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  • 0:00 What Is A Renal Corpuscle?
  • 1:26 How Do They Filter?
  • 1:49 The Glomerulus
  • 4:04 Bowman's Capsule
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Phenix
In this lesson, we'll explore an important structure known as the renal corpuscle. We'll examine its different parts and find out how they function to form the first stage of your kidney's filtering mechanism.

What is a Renal Corpuscle?

Right now, you're probably thinking that 'renal corpuscle' sounds pretty strange. Anytime you hear the word 'renal', it means something pertaining to your kidneys, while 'corpuscle' means a 'small body'. But don't let the part about a small body fool you. What renal corpuscles lack in size, they make up for in significance.

Renal corpuscles are the body's blood filtration mechanism, known as a nephron. Every day, the nephrons of your kidneys filter deadly toxins, such as nitrogenous wastes, a by-product of our metabolism, out of your blood. There are no holidays for these guys. On average, they filter about 125 milliliters , or about 4.23 ounces, of your blood a minute. Since most people have about five liters of blood, in one day, your nephrons will have filtered your blood about 56 times.

Each of your kidneys has about 1 million nephrons that work like little recycling plants. They sort waste materials, such as urea, out of your blood and then return, or recycle, back to your blood any electrolytes, glucose or necessary components that were filtered out by mistake. Nephrons also play an important role in monitoring and maintaining your blood fluid volume because they can return water and salts back to your blood that had been forced out into the filtrate.

How Do They Filter?

As the first stop in the blood filtration process, the renal corpuscle utilizes two structures. The first is the glomerulus, which is responsible for actually filtering your blood. The second, the Bowman's capsule, collects the molecules that the glomerulus filtered out and sends them into vessels responsible for the reabsorption process. Let's look at these structures in further detail.

The Glomerulus

The glomeruli, plural of glomerulus, are blood-carrying arterioles that look somewhat like a tangled ball of yarn. In fact, the name 'glomerulus', actually means 'little ball'. Each one is fed by a larger vessel, called an afferent arteriole that enters the Bowman's capsule and branches, forming the glomeruli.

The walls of the glomerulus are unique structures that work like a sieve, in that they have tiny little holes, called fenestrae. Only the small molecules can pass through the fenestrae in a phenomenon known as size exclusion. These membranes are selectively permeable to small molecules, such as urea, electrolytes, water, salt, glucose, and small hormones and nutrients, but not to large molecules or cells, like your red and white blood cells. These molecules don't get to decide whether they want to pass through the fenestrae, they're forced through them by the high fluid pressure within the glomerulus.

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