S-Cool Revision Summary

S-Cool Revision Summary

Homeostasis means keeping a constant internal environment. It is carried out around the whole body. Homeostasis reaches from every cell up to whole organs and systems.

If there was not a constant internal environment, our enzymes would not work properly. That would mean that nothing would operate correctly and we would die.

There are basically 6 things that are essential for health and that must be controlled:

  1. Carbon Dioxide
  2. Urea
  3. Ions
  4. Sugar
  5. Water
  6. Temperature

A cool way to remember these 6 things is by learning this...

  • When (Water)
  • Shall (Sugar)
  • I (Ions)
  • Clean (CO2)
  • The (Temperature)
  • Utensils (Urea)

Hypothalumus: monitors water, temperature and carbon dioxide content of blood.

Pituitary gland: secretes a number of hormones, a key one is ADH which is important in regulating the water content of the body.

Liver: helps to control glucose content of the body by storing it as glycogen. It is also involved in temperature regulation, acting as the body's furnace by increasing the rate of respiration when we are cold.

Lungs: involved by getting rid of carbon dioxide from the body.

Pancreas: involved in maintaining a constant amount of glucose in the body through the actions of glucagon and insulin.

Muscles: of the body can help to maintain a stable body temperature as muscular activity and shivering help to generate heat.

kidney: are involved in controlling the amount of water in the body.

Skin: is the largest organ and has a central role in maintaining a constant temperature.

Temperature control is important for the normal operation of enzymes and cells.

The brain has a key role in co-ordinating this function. Near the bottom of the brain is a place called the hypothalamus, which monitors a number of key things in the body, including temperature.

When the hypothalamus detects a change in the temperature of the blood it sends impulses down neurones to the skin.

The skin is described as the biggest organ in the body. An average person has about 2 square metres of skin.

The skin keeps our water in, has a layer of fat to keep us warm and is tough enough to keep out microbes that might cause disease. It is also a great place for nerve receptors.

In addition to all of this, the skin has some interesting mechanisms to help control temperature. It can alter blood flow, hair position and the amount of sweating.

When we get too hot the hypothalamus sends impulses to the skin which cause 3 things to happen:

  1. Our hairs lie flat: so letting more heat out.
  2. We sweat: the evaporation of this cools us down.
  3. More blood goes through the skin: this acts like a radiator to radiate out heat.

If we get too cold the hypothalamus sends other impulses so that the reverse happens:

  1. Our hairs stand up: this traps a layer of air which acts like an insulator.
  2. We stop sweating: this stops the heat loss by evaporation.
  3. Less blood goes through the skin: the skin will appear paler and colder.

We have two kidneys, which are in your lower back just where your belt goes. Their job is to clean the blood by filtering out unwanted material such as urea, excess water, salt and ions.

They are wonderfully constructed organs and do some amazing work.

One job that they are involved in is reabsorbing excess water so that we don't dry out.But how do they do it?

Blood enters the kidney through the renal artery. It is filtered and the 'clean' blood leaves via the renal vein. Any waste material leaves through the ureter, then to the bladder and the world outside!

If you cut into a kidney you see two distinct parts, the dark red outer zone called the cortex and the lighter inner zone, the medulla. If you then use a microscope and look at the cortex you begin to see lots of structures called nephrons. There are about 750,000 of them in each kidney.

At one end is a cup-like structure called the Bowman's capsule. It encloses a knot of capillaries called the glomerulus. These capillaries are leaky and small molecules get filtered out and end up inside the Bowman's capsule. This process is called ultrafiltration.

If nothing else happens then the materials, such as water and urea, will end up going all the way through the nephron, down the ureter, through the bladder and into the toilet!

However, sometimes the body needs to grab back chemicals such as water and glucose which are still useful. This happens when they move out of the fluid in the nephron back into the capillary network that twists around the nephron.

This process is called reabsorption.

Reabsorption means that the useful chemicals are taken back into the blood out of the nephron. They do not end up in the urine and are not lost from the body.

The chemical messenger between the brain and the kidney is the hormone ADH, Anti-Diuretic Hormone.

The important parts of the process involve:

  1. The hypothalamus in the brain, which detects the lower blood water content.
  2. The pituitary gland at the base of the brain, which releases the hormone ADH.
  3. The kidney, which reabsorbs the water.

In order to get back to the normal level of water in the blood we absorb more water from the digestive system, feel thirsty, and so drink more.

A similar sequence of events occurs when there is too much water in the body. This time, some of the details are reversed from what they were when there was too little water.


Blood is taken out of a vein and pumped through a machine that cleans it. This cleaning is done by getting the waste materials like urea to diffuse across a selectively permeable membrane into a plasma-like fluid. The 'clean' blood is then returned to the patient.

This is an expensive and time-consuming process taking about 4-6 hours, that must be repeated about three times a week.


A better way is to have a kidney transplant. Here, a healthy kidney is taken from a donor, usually someone who has sadly been killed in an accident or illness.

The kidney is then sewn into place with all of the blood vessels and tubes connected. The success rate is about 80% if the tissue types are found to be the same between donor and patient.

However the patient must take antibiotics and anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their life! Quite a daunting prospect but at least they can lead a normal life otherwise.

It just shows why Organ Donor cards are such a good idea.