Homeostasis Research

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There are numerous processes that happen in the human body. When this methods occur, they interfere with the normal stability system of the body. As such, there must be a device in the body whose main motive is to regulate the functioning of the various physique systems, thereby maintaining a normal surroundings for the body cells to work inefficiently. Homeostasis comes into play here. Homeostasis is the ability of the physique to maintain a regular and balanced environment, each inside and outside the cells for ordinary functioning. Without this system, the cells would seize to function as their surroundings would have been interfered with completely.

To understand this concept properly, there are a number of terms one need to be familiar with. The first one is feedback mechanisms. Feedback mechanisms refer to the adjustment the system makes in order to return the cell environment back to normal. There are two types of feedback, namely positive feedback, and negative feedback. Positive feedback refers to the constructive adjustments the body makes so as to maintain a balance between the internal and external environments of the cell (Dubois, et al. 2015, p.1112). Negative feedback, on the other hand, refers to the destructive adjustments the body makes so as to regulate the internal and external environmental conditions of a cell (Dubois, et al. 2015, p.1113). The most common forms of homeostasis are thermoregulation and osmoregulation. The following discussion will give details on these two processes. In addition, it will help one understand the importance of each of these functions in the human body.

Osmoregulation

Osmoregulation comes from the words osmosis and regulation. Osmosis is the process by which molecules move from regions of high concentration to regions of low concentration through a semi-permeable membrane until equilibrium is reached. Regulation, on the other hand, refers to maintaining substances certain concentration. Therefore, osmoregulation deals with the maintenance of the osmotic pressure within and outside the cell (Weis, 2013, p.98). A cell contains both water and dissolved substances. This also applies to its environment. The wall of a cell is a semi-permeable substance. Water and dissolved substances such as salt and sugars pass through the wall at any time, having nothing to control them. This process has no regulatory mechanism. As such, sometimes there may be an imbalance between the contents of the cell and its environment. For efficient functioning of the cell, these two environments need to have equilibrium. Otherwise, the cell will not perform its function efficiently.

The body of a normal human being contains up to 60% water, by weight. Human beings are among the few organisms that require osmoregulation (Weis, 2013, p 100). Sea animals are accustomed to highly saline environments and as such do not require osmoregulation. Water is easily transported across the cell membrane. There is no specific mechanism to control how water flows in and out of the cell. When there is excess water inside the cell, the contents of the cell become diluted. As such, the cell will not function as expected. Also, when there is a little water, the concentration of the contents becomes excess and as such the cell will not function as usual.

The ions present inside the cells control the movement of water into and out of the cell. These ions are mainly potassium and sodium ions (Larsen, et al. 2014, p.410). These ions are able to control the flow of water by creating a concentration gradient. When these ions leave the cell, they tend to attract water with them so that the concentration inside the cell remains the same. Osmoregulation is mainly controlled by the malphigian tubes of the kidney and the skin.

Osmoregulation happens in two mainly takes place by dehydration and waterlogging (Larsen, et al. 2014, p.411). Dehydration is the loss of water while waterlogging is the gaining of water into the body cells. Dehydration is a negative feedback while waterlogging is a positive feedback. Dehydration refers to the state where the body does not have enough water, whereas waterlogging refers to a state where the body has excess water. Whenever the pituitary gland senses dehydration in the body, it sends signals so that no more antidiuretic hormone is produced. In doing so, the permittivity of the antidiuretic hormone decreases and as such less water is absorbed. The urine produced therefore is concentrated, and water retained in the body. Also, when the body is dehydrated, one tends to feel thirsty more often. They, therefore, take lots of water to compensate for the water deficit.

When the body is waterlogged, the converse happens. The pituitary gland sends a signal to the brain so that less ADH is produced (Larsen, et al. 2014, p.411). In doing so, the malphigian tubes absorb more water. Consequently, urine becomes less concentrated as more water is lost. Also, the body can lose water by sweating.

Thermoregulation

Thermoregulation is the process by which the body attempts to maintain a regular internal temperature so that the body processes can take place efficiently. The process ensures an equilibrium system is attained for all the body processes. The body temperature of an average individual is 37˚ C (Diller, 2015, p. 342). this temperature fluctuates depending on activities one does. A human being is in constant movement unless they are asleep. As such, the temperature may increase or decrease thereby varying from this average. Some of the factors that may lead to increase in the body temperature include digestion, exercise, and fever. Some factors that may lead to a decrease in temperature include drug and substance abuse and metabolic activities, especially those that are influenced by the thyroid gland (Diller, 2015, p. 342).

The hypothalamus plays an important role in osmoregulation (Diller, 2015, p. 344). This is the part of the brain that is in charge of maintaining body temperature. It is designed to sense changes in the body temperature, either increase or decrease and respond accordingly. Whenever a temperature change is detected, the nerves relay this signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then responds accordingly depending on the signal it is given.

There are different mechanisms the body uses in order to regulate the body temperature. This mechanism depends on whether the temperature detected is lower or higher than usual. Whenever there is an increase in temperature, the nerves relay this signal to the hypothalamus of the brain. The hypothalamus then sends signals that will initiate mechanisms that will cool the body. Such mechanisms include sweating and vasodilation (Nagashima, 2015, p.334). Sweating is the process by which the pores on the skin lose waste substances in the form of sweat. The hypothalamus makes the sweat glands to start producing sweat. As they do so, sweat is lost from the skin. First, the sweat accumulates on the skin surface. Thereafter, the sweat evaporates using the heat provided by the body. In doing so, it leaves behind a cooling effect on the skin, resulting in an overall decrease in temperature of the body.

Another mechanism the body uses is vasodilation. This is the process whereby the blood vessels get wider and move closer to the skin (Nagashima, 2015, p.334). This action ensures there is an increase in the blood flow near the skin. When blood is near the skin, it can easily lose temperature to the environment via radiation. This, in turn, decreases the body temperature.

Whenever there is a decrease in temperature, the nerves relays this message to the hypothalamus of the brain. The hypothalamus initiates various mechanisms which will, in turn, raise the body temperature. Such mechanisms include vasoconstriction and thermogenesis (Nagashima, 2015, p.335). Thermogenesis may either be physical or hormonal. Physical thermogenesis refers to the various activities done by various body parts so as to increase temperature. The most common form of physical thermogenesis is shivering. Hormonal thermogenesis refers to the process whereby the thyroid gland produces hormones that increase metabolism, thereby increasing the amount of energy and consequently producing heat.

Vasoconstriction is another common mechanism used to increase the body temperature. This is the reverse of vasodilation. The blood vessels will shrink and hide deep under the skin. In this way, they are not able to lose heat to the environment (Nagashima, 2015, p.335). They, therefore, retain the available heat, thus keeping the body warm.

Conclusion

Homeostasis is therefore a very essential tool in the human body. It helps maintain the internal and external environment of the cell, thereby ensuring the cell functions efficiently (Stanford, et al. 2012, p.220). It plays an important role in that it helps to perform functions that cannot be entirely performed by the cell. The cells are not self-sufficient in that they do not have control over the environment in which they work in. homeostasis, therefore, provides the cells with various mechanisms that help regulate their environment for efficient functioning. There are other homeostatic functions that have not been discussed in this section. In conclusion, homeostasis plays an important role in performing functions that cannot be performed by an individual cell but are essential for their proper functioning.

References

Diller, K. R. (2015). Therapeutic Recruitment of Thermoregulation in Humans by Selective Thermal Stimulation along the Spine. Advances in Heat Transfer, 47, 341–396. http://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aiht.2015.08.002

Dubois, S. L., Acosta-Martínez, M., Dejoseph, M. R., Wolfe, A., Radovick, S., Boehm, U., … Levine, J. E. (2015). Positive, But Not Negative Feedback Actions of Estradiol in Adult Female Mice Require Estrogen Receptor α in Kisspeptin Neurons. Endocrinology, 156(3), 1111–1120. http://doi.org/10.1210/en.2014-1851

Jenkins, S. J., & Hume, D. A. (2014). Homeostasis in the mononuclear phagocyte system. Trends in Immunology, 35(8), 358–367. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.it.2014.06.006

Larsen, E. H., Deaton, L. E., Onken, H., O'donnell, M., Grosell, M., Dantzler, W. H., & Weihrauch, D. (2014). Osmoregulation and Excretion. Comprehensive Physiology, 405–573. http://doi.org/10.1002/cphy.c130004

Nagashima, K. (2015). Thermal information from the skin: the signal processing and the role in behavioral thermoregulation. Temperature, 2(3), 334–335. http://doi.org/10.1080/23328940.2015.1053597

Stanford, K. I., Middelbeek, R. J., Townsend, K. L., An, D., Nygaard, E. B., Hitchcox, K. M., … Goodyear, L. J. (2012). Brown adipose tissue regulates glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 123(1), 215–223. http://doi.org/10.1172/jci62308

Weis, J. S. (2013). Osmoregulation and Excretion. Physiological, Developmental and Behavioral Effects of Marine Pollution, 97–125. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6949-6_4

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