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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Define osmosis and explain its role within molecules
  • Explain why osmoregulation and osmotic balance are important body functions
  • Describe active transport mechanisms
  • Explain osmolarity and the way in which it is measured
  • Describe osmoregulators or osmoconformers and how these tools allow animals to adapt to different environments

Osmosis is the diffusion of water across a membrane in response to osmotic pressure    caused by an imbalance of molecules on either side of the membrane. Osmoregulation is the process of maintenance of salt and water balance ( osmotic balance    ) across membranes within the body’s fluids, which are composed of water, plus electrolytes and non-electrolytes. An electrolyte    is a solute that dissociates into ions when dissolved in water. A non-electrolyte    , in contrast, doesn’t dissociate into ions during water dissolution. Both electrolytes and non-electrolytes contribute to the osmotic balance. The body’s fluids include blood plasma, the cytosol within cells, and interstitial fluid, the fluid that exists in the spaces between cells and tissues of the body. The membranes of the body (such as the pleural, serous, and cell membranes) are semi-permeable membranes . Semi-permeable membranes are permeable (or permissive) to certain types of solutes and water. Solutions on two sides of a semi-permeable membrane tend to equalize in solute concentration by movement of solutes and/or water across the membrane. As seen in [link] , a cell placed in water tends to swell due to gain of water from the hypotonic or “low salt” environment. A cell placed in a solution with higher salt concentration, on the other hand, tends to make the membrane shrivel up due to loss of water into the hypertonic or “high salt” environment. Isotonic cells have an equal concentration of solutes inside and outside the cell; this equalizes the osmotic pressure on either side of the cell membrane which is a semi-permeable membrane.

The left part of this illustration shows shriveled red blood cells bathed in a hypertonic solution. The middle part shows healthy red blood cells bathed in an isotonic solution, and the right part shows bloated red blood cells bathed in a hypotonic solution. One of the bloated cells in the hypotonic solution bursts.
Cells placed in a hypertonic environment tend to shrink due to loss of water. In a hypotonic environment, cells tend to swell due to intake of water. The blood maintains an isotonic environment so that cells neither shrink nor swell. (credit: Mariana Ruiz Villareal)

The body does not exist in isolation. There is a constant input of water and electrolytes into the system. While osmoregulation is achieved across membranes within the body, excess electrolytes and wastes are transported to the kidneys and excreted, helping to maintain osmotic balance.

Need for osmoregulation

Biological systems constantly interact and exchange water and nutrients with the environment by way of consumption of food and water and through excretion in the form of sweat, urine, and feces. Without a mechanism to regulate osmotic pressure, or when a disease damages this mechanism, there is a tendency to accumulate toxic waste and water, which can have dire consequences.

Mammalian systems have evolved to regulate not only the overall osmotic pressure across membranes, but also specific concentrations of important electrolytes in the three major fluid compartments: blood plasma, extracellular fluid, and intracellular fluid. Since osmotic pressure is regulated by the movement of water across membranes, the volume of the fluid compartments can also change temporarily. Because blood plasma is one of the fluid components, osmotic pressures have a direct bearing on blood pressure.

Questions & Answers

wat is the meaning of Mr.niger. d
It Reply
Now Mr. Niger Dac M;movement R;respiration N;nutrition G;growth E;excretion R;reproduction D;death A;adaptation C;competition
Odion
Sorry.... I;irritability
Odion
GOOD MORNING MY NAME IS MESUMBE PRECIOUS WHAT IS YOUR NAME
Mesumbe Reply
ccc
Peace
hi
Emmanuel
Emmanuel Daniel
Emmanuel
what is the meaning of Mr Niger?
Emmanuel
state all the elements and their symbols
Taiwo Reply
what types of muscles are found in the heart
Diamond Reply
Cardiac muscle
Divya
cardiac or myocardia muscle
onuoha
cardiac muscles
Elvis
cardiac muscle
Jemima
Cardiac muscle
Dr
Thank you dear!
yimam
please can you tell me the meaning of Mr Niger?
Emmanuel
It is an initial to represent life processes of organisms. M means movement, R for reproduction, N stands for nutrition, I for irritability or sensitivity,G means growth , E for excretion and R stands for respiration.
Quartey
cardiac muscle
Stanisla
what is digestion
Dolla Reply
it is the chemical break down of insoluble food substances such as fatty acid to soluble substances which are then used for body processes
Lawerence
does human being sperm performed in the ovary of goat
sadeeq Reply
levels of ecological study
sadeeq
no
Dolla
human sperms contains acid
Dolla
what is an artery
Dolla
It is one of the organs of the circulatory system that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body.
Quartey
artery is type of blood vessel which carries blood away from heart...
shams
how liver destroy red blood cells?
shams
big bang theory was discovered by
Sweety Reply
Georges Lemaître
Mr
the meaning of nucleus
Spring Reply
nucleus Is also known as the cell's headquarters
Feranmi
what is pathology?
Azi Reply
is the study of diseases, it's cause and development of a disease
Boadi
State the law of segregation
Theolla Reply
what is a cell
Bunmi Reply
A cell is a basic structural unit of an organism
Addo
what are molecules?
Veronica
molecule:a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction.
Black
cell is basic structural and functional unit of life which can perform all the metabolic activities
Prakash
which organ function as modulator & effector in homeostasis glucose level ( Liver & islet of Langerhans ) & How ?
Dr
a cell is the basic unit of life
Taiwo
A cell is the basic unit of life
Odion
basic structural and functional unit of any living organism
Lawerence
comapare and contrast food chain
Chengo Reply
what are the classes of biology
Oluebube Reply
Microbiology Biochemistry Botany Zoology Horticulture
Odion
what is translocation
James Reply
what is hominids
Dauba Reply
what is biomolecules
Lawerence Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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