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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Chronic Kidney Disease. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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The Nephron

The nephron is generally considered the "functional unit" of the kidney. Each nephron consists of renal capillaries and a fluid collecting duct that act to filter plasma that is received from the renal artery.
From the afferent arterioles, blood is delivered to the glomerulus within the nephron, a series of capillary loops enclosed by a sac-like structure called the Bowman's capsule. At the glomerulus, blood passes by a specialized cellular ultrastructure that filters the plasma. Water is freely filtered, while other components are more selectively filtered based on size and charge, with larger and/or more negatively charged components filtered less easily.
The filtrate passes into the Bowman's capsule, then flows through additional sections of the nephron, beginning with the proximal tubule, moving through the loop of Henle, and finally the distal tubule. Throughout this process, various components of the filtrate are reabsorbed, including water and electrolytes. The remainder of the filtrate is delivered to larger collecting tubules and ducts, where it is ultimately passed out of the kidney via the ureter.