Structure & Functions of the Kidney

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Illustration of human kidney.
Illustration of human kidney. (Image: pixologicstudio/iStock/Getty Images)

Your kidneys are reddish, bean shaped organs located in your lower back, behind the abdomen. They are responsible for ridding your circulation system of the waste and converting it into urine. Your kidneys also release hormones that aid in regulating blood pressure, promoting red blood cell production and building healthy bones. The kidney system has several parts, each with its own function.

Renal Artery and Vein

The main function of the kidneys is to be a filter for your blood as it circulates through the body. This requires that blood be able to reach and leave the kidneys efficiently. Each kidney has a renal artery that brings blood into the kidney for filtration. Each kidney also has a renal vein that takes the blood from away from the kidneys to back into circulation.

3D of blood.
3D of blood. (Image: xrender/iStock/Getty Images)

Renal Corpuscle

The nephrons inside the kidney are where most of the kidney's functions are completed. There are close to one million nephrons working within each kidney. Each nephron is made up two parts: the renal corpuscle and the renal tubule. The renal corpuscle has two parts as wells. The glomerulus is a network of capillaries that blood is forced through at a higher blood pressure than your normal blood pressure. This increased blood pressure helps wastes, excess water and other materials be forced out of the blood and into the Bowman's Capsule. The Bowman's Capsule (also known as the Glomerular Capsule) a double walled cuplike sac. Its walls are actually filtration membranes, which enables water and other materials to pass through while keeping blood and proteins out.

Renal Tubule

The other part of the nephron is the renal tubule. After the excess water and waste passes through the Bowman's capsule, it goes to the renal tubule. There, some of the materials that are filtered from the blood end up being reabsorbed back into the blood, which aids in regulating electrolyte levels. It is here that urine is produced and collected. Afterwards, it is then sent to the collection tubule.

Collection Duct

All of the tubules from the many nephrons in each kidney pool together into one collection tubule or collection duct. Inside the collection duct system, even more material is reabsorbed back into the blood circulations, helping to regulate electrolytes. There are several parts of collection ducts, beginning with the initial collection tubules, followed by the cortical collection ducts and the medullary collection ducts. The last portion of collection ducts are the papillary ducts, which then drain into ureter.

Ureter

The kidneys are a major part of the urinary system, responsible taking the waste and excess water from your blood and making urine. Once that urine is ready to leave a kidney, it travels through the ureter, a muscular duct, to the bladder. There the urine collects until the bladder is full and the urine can be excreted from the body.

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