Ten Standard >> Structure and function of nephron

Click the green "Start" button for MCQ.


Structure and function of nephron


Within our kidneys lies a complex network of tiny structures called nephrons, which play a crucial role in maintaining our body's internal balance. In this blog, we will embark on a fascinating journey into the world of nephrons, uncovering their intricate structure and exploring their vital functions in the process of urine formation. Join us as we delve into the marvels of nephrons and gain a deeper understanding of their role in maintaining our overall health and well-being.

Structure of the Nephron:
The nephron is the functional unit of the kidney, responsible for the filtration, reabsorption, and secretion processes involved in urine formation. Each kidney contains millions of nephrons, each comprising a complex structure with distinct regions:

                       Structure of the Nephron

Renal Corpuscle: The renal corpuscle consists of the glomerulus and Bowman's capsule. The glomerulus is a network of tiny blood vessels called capillaries, where blood filtration occurs. Bowman's capsule envelops the glomerulus, forming a cup-like structure that gathers and contains the filtered fluid.

Proximal Convoluted Tubule (PCT): From Bowman's capsule, the filtrate passes into the PCT. The PCT is responsible for the reabsorption of water, glucose, amino acids, salts, and other essential substances back into the bloodstream.

Loop of Henle: The Loop of Henle is divided into the descending and ascending limbs. It plays a crucial role in creating a concentration gradient in the kidney, allowing for the reabsorption of water and salts.

Distal Convoluted Tubule (DCT): The DCT is responsible for fine-tuning the reabsorption and secretion processes. It regulates the concentration of ions, pH balance, and the final composition of urine.

Collecting Duct: The collecting duct receives urine from multiple nephrons and carries it to the renal pelvis. It plays a role in further concentrating the urine by reabsorbing water.

Types of nephrons:

Here are two main types of nephrons: cortical nephrons and juxtamedullary nephrons.

Cortical Nephrons: Cortical nephrons make up the majority, around 85%, of the nephrons in the kidneys. These nephrons have their renal corpuscles located in the outer region or cortex of the kidney. The glomerulus of cortical nephrons lies in the outer layer of the renal cortex, and their loops of Henle extend only a short distance into the medulla. Cortical nephrons are involved in the regulation of electrolyte balance and the excretion of waste products.

Juxtamedullary Nephrons: Juxtamedullary nephrons are less numerous, comprising approximately 15% of the nephrons. These nephrons have their renal corpuscles located deeper within the cortex, near the junction with the medulla. The glomerulus of juxtamedullary nephrons lies close to the medulla, and their loops of Henle extend deep into the medulla, creating a long nephron loop. Juxtamedullary nephrons play a crucial role in establishing the concentration gradient in the medulla and are involved in the regulation of water balance and the production of concentrated urine.

Functions of the Nephron:
The nephron performs several essential functions, working together to maintain homeostasis and regulate fluid and electrolyte balance:

Filtration: Blood enters the glomerulus, and through the process of filtration, water, dissolved substances, and waste products are separated from the blood. This filtered fluid, known as the glomerular filtrate, enters Bowman's capsule.

Reabsorption: As the glomerular filtrate passes through the various sections of the nephron, essential substances such as glucose, amino acids, and electrolytes are selectively reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. This ensures that vital nutrients and substances are retained by the body.

Secretion: Along the nephron, certain substances, such as hydrogen ions, potassium ions, and drugs, are actively secreted into the filtrate. This process helps eliminate waste products and regulate acid-base balance.

Concentration of Urine: The nephron, particularly the Loop of Henle, plays a significant role in concentrating urine. As the filtrate travels through the Loop of Henle, water is reabsorbed, creating a concentration gradient that allows for the reabsorption of water in the collecting duct. This concentrates the urine and helps conserve water in the body.

Regulation of Blood Pressure: The nephron, through its intricate processes of filtration, reabsorption, and secretion, contributes to the regulation of blood pressure. By adjusting the reabsorption of water and salts, the nephron helps maintain the balance of fluid volume in the body, which influences blood pressure.

Malfunctions and Kidney Disorders:
Disorders and malfunctions of the nephron can lead to various kidney conditions, including:

Glomerular Diseases: Conditions affecting the glomerulus, such as glomerulonephritis, can impair filtration and cause abnormal levels of protein or blood in the urine.

Tubular Disorders: Defects in the tubular functions of the nephron, such as renal tubular acidosis or Fanconi syndrome, can result in imbalances of electrolytes, impaired reabsorption, and abnormal urine composition.

Kidney Stones: Buildup of certain substances in the urine can lead to the formation of kidney stones, which can cause severe pain and obstruction in the urinary system.

Renal Failure: Chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury can result in the loss of nephron function, leading to a decline in kidney function and the need for medical interventions such as dialysis or kidney transplantation.

              The nephron, with its intricate structure and remarkable functions, serves as the cornerstone of kidney function. Its ability to filter, reabsorb, and secrete substances allows for the maintenance of homeostasis, fluid balance, and waste elimination. Understanding the structure and functions of the nephron provides insights into the complex workings of our kidneys and highlights their vital role in overall health. By recognizing the importance of nephrons, we can strive to protect and maintain the health of these remarkable structures, ensuring the well-being of our kidneys and the body as a whole.

Hand drawn


Forgot your password?


Error message here!


Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive a link to create a new password.

Back to log-in