BMS311 - The Kidney in Health and Disease (10 credits)

Module Co-ordinator: Dr L. Robson


The aim of the module is to provide an understanding of some of the mechanisms underlying the normal functions of the kidney and to provide an appreciation of the causes of renal diseases.


The module will commence with a consideration of functional anatomy and cell biology of renal epithelial cells. The module will concentrate on a detailed consideration of solute and water transport along the nephron, highlighting the mechanisms underlying a variety of renal transport diseases.

The mechanisms of hormonal control of solute and water transport will be examined where appropriate. Emphasis throughout will be placed on the detailed cellular and molecular mechanisms involved. The action of drugs that affect kidney function (diuretics) will be investigated by examination of renal function using clearance approaches. The module will provide an appreciation of how experimental research informs our understanding of renal function, reflecting the University's mission statement to lead teaching by current research.


By the end of the module the student should be able to:

  • Describe advanced renal functional anatomy
  • Be able to make clearance calculations and interpret experimental data
  • Explain the reabsorptive and secretory functions of defined nephron segments under normal conditions
  • Explain how the function of a particular nephron segment contributes to normal renal function
  • Describe the importance of the kidney in normal homeostatic control of potassium, sodium, hydrogen, chloride and water
  • Explain the mechanisms by which the kidney is involved in the control of divalent cation homeostasis
  • Compare the mechanisms by which different nephron segments handle the same solute.
  • Describe how water moves across glomerular capillaries and nephron epithelial cells
  • Compare the basis of action of some hormones on renal cells
  • Explain the basis of defined nephropathies and describe these at the cellular/molecular level
  • Integrate information from lectures and library sources to produce a critical account of an area of renal physiology.

Teaching Methods

The principal teaching method will be by conventional lectures and directed reading. Formative assessment exercises will be provided via quizzes on WEBCT. In addition, you are also expected to complete a data handling / interpretation exercise at the end of the workbook.


The formal assessment for this module is a 1-hour open book data handling exam (50%), and in an course essay (50%).