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Introduction to Disorders of Kidney Tubules

By L. Aimee Hechanova, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine; Attending Nephrologist, Texas Tech University; University Medical Center

The kidneys filter and cleanse the blood. They also maintain the body’s balance of water, electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, and chloride), and nutrients in the blood.

The kidneys begin these tasks by filtering the blood as it flows through microscopic tufts of blood vessels with small pores (glomeruli). This process moves a large amount of water and electrolytes and other substances into the kidney tubules. The cells lining these tubules reabsorb and return needed water, electrolytes, and nutrients (such as glucose and amino acids) to the blood. The cells also transport waste products and drugs from the blood into the fluid (which becomes urine) as it flows through the tubules. The kidneys also add hormones that maintain blood supply ( erythropoietin), blood pressure, and electrolyte balance.

Disorders that interfere with the transport functions of the cells lining the tubules are called tubular disorders or transport disorders.

These tubular disorders are hereditary and many are present at birth. Some have other causes such as drugs or other diseases.