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      Ernest Henry Starling (1866-1927) on the Glomerular and Tubular Functions of the Kidney

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          Around the turn of the 20th century, Ernest Henry Starling (1866-1927) made many fundamental contributions to the understanding of human physiology. With a deep interest in how fluid balance is regulated, he naturally turned to explore the intricacies of kidney function. Early in his career he focused upon the process of glomerular filtration and was able to substantiate the view of Carl Ludwig that this process can be explained entirely upon the basis of hydrostatic and oncotic pressure gradients across the glomerular capillary wall and that the process can be regulated by alterations in the tone of the afferent and efferent arterioles. To explore renal tubular function he employed a heart-lung-kidney model in the dog and was able to infer that certain substances are reabsorbed by the tubules (e.g. sodium chloride) and certain by tubular secretion (e.g. uric acid, indigo carmine dye). By temporarily blocking tubular function using hydrocyanic acid he was able to conclude that secreted substances must be taken up on the peritubular side of the cell and concentrated within the cell to drive the secretory process. Finally, he was able to appreciate that the kidney is an organ which is regulated according to the needs of the organism and that the processes of glomerular filtration, tubular secretion and reabsorption are all subject to regulatory influences, which have evolved to conserve the normal chemical composition of the cells and fluids of the body.

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          Functional profile of the isolated uremic nephron. Role of compensatory hypertrophy in the control of fluid reabsorption by the proximal straight tubule.

          An in vitro approach to the study of single nephron function in uremia has been employed in evaluating the control of fluid reabsorption by the renal superficial proximal straight tubule (PST). Isolated segments of PSTs from the remnant kidneys of uremic rabbits (stage III) were perfused in vitro and their rate of fluid reabsorption compared with normal PSTs and with PSTs derived from the remnant kidneys of nonuremic rabbits (stage II). All segments were exposed to a peritubular bathing medium of both normal and uremic rabbit serum thereby permitting a differentiation to be made between adaptations in function which are intrinsic to the tubular epithelium and those which are dependent upon a uremic milieu.Compared with normal and stage II PSTs, there was significant hypertrophy of the stage III tubules as evidenced by an increase in length and internal diameter, and a twofold increase in the dry weight per unit length. Fluid reabsorption per unit length of tubule was 70% greater in stage III than in normal and stage II PSTs, and was closely correlated with the increase in dry weight. Substitutions between normal and uremic rabbit serum in the peritubular bathing medium did not affect fluid reabsorption significantly in any of the three groups of PSTs. Perfusion of the tubules with an ultrafiltrate of normal vs. uremic serum likewise failed to influence the rate of net fluid reabsorption. It has previously been observed that net fluid secretion may occur in nonperfused or stop-flow perfused normal rabbit PSTs exposed to human uremic serum. Additional studies were thus performed on normal and stage III PSTs to evaluate whether net secretion occurs in the presence of rabbit uremic serum. No evidence for net secretion was found. These studies demonstrate that fluid reabsorption is greatly increased in the superficial PST of the uremic remnant kidney and that this functional adaptation is closely correlated with compensatory hypertrophy of the segment. Humoral factors in the peritubular environment do not appear to be important mediators of the enhanced fluid reabsorption.
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            The secretion of urine as studied on the isolated kidney

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              Ernest Henry Starling (1866-1927) on the Formation and Reabsorption of Lymph

               Leon Fine (corresponding) (2014)
              Ernest Henry Starling laid the groundwork for our modern understanding of how the interstitial fluid, which he referred to as ‘lymph', is regulated. Together with his colleague, William Bayliss, he provided the crucial insight into how fluid is driven out of the capillary to form interstitial fluid. That was to measure (estimate) the capillary pressure in different parts of the circulation and to relate changes in these pressures to altered lymph formation. In addressing how interstitial fluid re-enters the circulation, he was able to show that this occurs not only via the lymphatics, but also by re-entering the capillaries, mediated by the oncotic pressure of the plasma proteins. Starling's discoveries put to rest all notions that the processes of filtration and reabsorption of fluid are mediated by the ‘vital activity' of cells. They could be explained entirely on the basis of physic-chemical forces. Based upon his insights from animal experiments, he was able to explain the genesis of edema (dropsy) in a number of disease states, including venous obstruction, cardiac disease and inflammatory conditions.

                Author and article information

                Nephron Physiol
                Nephron Physiology
                S. Karger AG
                July 2014
                26 June 2014
                : 126
                : 4
                : 19-28
                Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Calif., USA
                Author notes
                *Leon G. Fine, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90048 (USA), E-Mail
                363302 Nephron Physiol 2014;126:19-28
                © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 1, Pages: 10
                Original Paper


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