The kidneys, located high in the abdominal cavity, are the foremost regulators of the body's internal chemical environment.The kidneys filter the blood and in the process eliminate wastes, maintain normal levels of nutrients and electrolytic minerals, regulate acid-base balance (pH), and control blood pressure. Hormones and nerves link kidney function to the liver, the adrenal cortex, and the circulatory system. The four important roles of the kidney are the elimination of waste products, maintenance of normal levels of nutrients and electrolytes, the maintenance of blood pH, and the regulation of blood pressure. The two kidneys together contain 2,400,000 nephrons which individually perform these various complex functions. Blood flows into the glomeruli where filtration takes place via the afferent arteries. A part of this artery mediates and maintains adequate pressure against the glomerular membrane so dialysis can take place. Blood pressure is maintained by secretion of renin into the blood stream. Renin converts certain blood proteins into angiotensis I which is rapidly converted to angiotensin II in the lungs and other places in the kidney. Angiotensin II acts as a powerful vasoconstrictor of capillaries and only a few micrograms are required to keep blood pressure at its optimum. Malfunctions in this system have been implicated in causing the epidemic levels of hypertension that occur in our country. All by-products of metabolism and excess salts are secreted into the proximal tube and as the fluid descends through the loops, needed nutrients such as amino acids and salts are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Blood neutrality is maintained by retaining more basic elements and eliminating more acidic components of the plasma.
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