In biology, homeostasis is the state of steady internal physical and chemical conditions maintained by living systems. This dynamic state of equilibrium is the condition of optimal functioning for the organism and includes many variables, such as body temperature and fluid balance, being kept within certain pre-set limits (homeostatic range). Other variables include the pH of extracellular fluid, the concentrations of sodium, potassium and calcium ions, as well as that of the blood sugar level, and these need to be regulated despite changes in the environment, diet, or level of activity. Each of these variables is controlled by one or more regulators or homeostatic mechanisms, which together maintain life.
Homeostasis is brought about by a natural resistance to change in the optimal conditions, and equilibrium is maintained by many regulatory mechanisms. All homeostatic control mechanisms have at least three interdependent components for the variable being regulated: a receptor, a control centre, and an effector. The receptor is the sensing component that monitors and responds to changes in the environment, either external or internal. Receptors include thermoreceptors, and mechanoreceptors. Control centres include the respiratory centre, and the renin–angiotensin system. An effector is the target acted on, to bring about the change back to the normal state. At the cellular level, receptors include nuclear receptors that bring about changes in gene expression through up-regulation or down-regulation, and act in negative feedback mechanisms. An example of this is in the control of bile acids in the liver.
Some centers, such as the renin–angiotensin system, control more than one variable. When the receptor senses a stimulus, it reacts by sending action potentials to a control center. The control center sets the maintenance range—the acceptable upper and lower limits—for the particular variable, such as temperature. The control center responds to the signal by determining an appropriate response and sending signals to an effector, which can be one or more muscles, an organ, or a gland. When the signal is received and acted on, negative feedback is provided to the receptor that stops the need for further signaling.
The concept of the regulation of the internal environment was described by French physiologist Claude Bernard in 1865, and the word homeostasis was coined by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1926. In 1932, Joseph Barcroft a British physiologist, was the first to say that higher brain function required the most stable internal environment. Thus, to Barcroft homeostasis was not only organized by the brain—homeostasis served the brain. Homeostasis is an almost exclusively biological term, referring to the concepts described by Bernard and Cannon, concerning the constancy of the internal environment in which the cells of the body live and survive. The term cybernetics is applied to technological control systems such as thermostats, which function as homeostatic mechanisms, but is often defined much more broadly than the biological term of homeostasis.
The word homeostasis (/ˌhoʊmioʊˈsteɪsɪs/) uses combining forms of homeo- and -stasis, New Latin from Greek: ὅμοιος homoios, "similar" and στάσις stasis, "standing still", yielding the idea of "staying the same".
The metabolic processes of all organisms can only take place in very specific physical and chemical environments. The conditions vary with each organism, and with whether the chemical processes take place inside the cell or in the interstitial fluid bathing the cells. The best known homeostatic mechanisms in humans and other mammals are regulators that keep the composition of the extracellular fluid (or the "internal environment") constant, especially with regard to the temperature, pH, osmolality, and the concentrations of sodium, potassium, glucose, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. However, a great many other homeostatic mechanisms, encompassing many aspects of human physiology, control other entities in the body. Where the levels of variables are higher or lower than those needed, they are often prefixed with hyper- and hypo-, respectively such as hyperthermia and hypothermia and hypertension and hypotension.
If an entity is homeostatically controlled it does not imply that its value is necessarily absolutely steady in health. Core body temperature is, for instance, regulated by a homeostatic mechanism with temperature sensors in, amongst others, the hypothalamus of the brain. However, the set point of the regulator is regularly reset. For instance, core body temperature in humans varies during the course of the day (i.e. has a circadian rhythm), with the lowest temperatures occurring at night, and the highest in the afternoons. Other normal temperature variations include those related to the menstrual cycle. The temperature regulator's set point is reset during infections to produce a fever. Organisms are capable of adjusting somewhat to varied conditions such as temperature changes or oxygen levels at altitude, by a process of acclimatisation.
Homeostasis does not govern every activity in the body. For instance the signal (be it via neurons or hormones) from the sensor to the effector is, of necessity, highly variable in order to convey information about the direction and magnitude of the error detected by the sensor. Similarly the effector's response needs to be highly adjustable to reverse the error – in fact it should be very nearly in proportion (but in the opposite direction) to the error that is threatening the internal environment. For instance, the arterial blood pressure in mammals is homeostatically controlled, and measured by stretch receptors in the walls of the aortic arch and carotid sinuses at beginnings of the internal carotid arteries. The sensors send messages via sensory nerves to the medulla oblongata of the brain indicating whether the blood pressure has fallen or risen, and by how much. The medulla oblongata then distributes messages along motor or efferent nerves belonging to the autonomic nervous system to a wide variety of effector organs, whose activity is consequently changed to reverse the error in the blood pressure. One of the effector organs is the heart whose rate is stimulated to rise (tachycardia) when the arterial blood pressure falls, or to slow down (bradycardia) when the pressure rises above set point. Thus the heart rate (for which there is no sensor in the body) is not homeostatically controlled, but is one of effector responses to errors in the arterial blood pressure. Another example is the rate of sweating. This is one of the effectors in the homeostatic control of body temperature, and therefore highly variable in rough proportion to the heat load that threatens to destabilize the body's core temperature, for which there is a sensor in the hypothalamus of the brain.
Mammals regulate their core temperature using input from thermoreceptors in the hypothalamus, brain, spinal cord, internal organs, and great veins. Apart from the internal regulation of temperature, a process called allostasis can come into play that adjusts behaviour to adapt to the challenge of very hot or cold extremes (and to other challenges). These adjustments may include seeking shade and reducing activity, or seeking warmer conditions and increasing activity, or huddling. Behavioural thermoregulation takes precedence over physiological thermoregulation since necessary changes can be affected more quickly and physiological thermoregulation is limited in its capacity to respond to extreme temperatures.
When core temperature falls, the blood supply to the skin is reduced by intense vasoconstriction. The blood flow to the limbs (which have a large surface area) is similarly reduced, and returned to the trunk via the deep veins which lie alongside the arteries (forming venae comitantes). This acts as a counter-current exchange system which short-circuits the warmth from the arterial blood directly into the venous blood returning into the trunk, causing minimal heat loss from the extremities in cold weather. The subcutaneous limb veins are tightly constricted, not only reducing heat loss from this source, but also forcing the venous blood into the counter-current system in the depths of the limbs.
When core temperature rises are detected by thermoreceptors, the sweat glands in the skin are stimulated via cholinergic sympathetic nerves to secrete sweat onto the skin, which, when it evaporates, cools the skin and the blood flowing through it. Panting is an alternative effector in many vertebrates, which cools the body also by the evaporation of water, but this time from the mucous membranes of the throat and mouth.
Blood sugar levels are regulated within fairly narrow limits. In mammals the primary sensors for this are the beta cells of the pancreatic islets. The beta cells respond to a rise in the blood sugar level by secreting insulin into the blood, and simultaneously inhibiting their neighboring alpha cells from secreting glucagon into the blood. This combination (high blood insulin levels and low glucagon levels) act on effector tissues, chief of which are the liver, fat cells and muscle cells. The liver is inhibited from producing glucose, taking it up instead, and converting it to glycogen and triglycerides. The glycogen is stored in the liver, but the triglycerides are secreted into the blood as very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles which are taken up by adipose tissue, there to be stored as fats. The fat cells take up glucose through special glucose transporters (GLUT4), whose numbers in the cell wall are increased as a direct effect of insulin acting on these cells. The glucose that enters the fat cells in this manner is converted into triglycerides (via the same metabolic pathways as are used by the liver) and then stored in those fat cells together with the VLDL-derived triglycerides that were made in the liver. Muscle cells also take glucose up through insulin-sensitive GLUT4 glucose channels, and convert it into muscle glycogen.
A fall in blood glucose, causes insulin secretion to be stopped, and glucagon to be secreted from the alpha cells into the blood. This inhibits the uptake of glucose from the blood by the liver, fats cells and muscle. Instead the liver is strongly stimulated to manufacture glucose from glycogen (through glycogenolysis) and from non-carbohydrate sources (such as lactate and de-aminated amino acids) using a process known as gluconeogenesis. The glucose thus produced is discharged into the blood correcting the detected error (hypoglycemia). The glycogen stored in muscles remains in the muscles, and is only broken down, during exercise, to glucose-6-phosphate and thence to pyruvate to be fed into the citric acid cycle or turned into lactate. It is only the lactate and the waste products of the citric acid cycle that are returned to the blood. The liver can take up only the lactate, and by the process of energy consuming gluconeogenesis convert it back to glucose.
Changes in the levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and plasma pH are sent to the respiratory center, in the brainstem where they are regulated. The partial pressure of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the arterial blood is monitored by the peripheral chemoreceptors (PNS) in the carotid artery and aortic arch. A change in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide is detected as altered pH in the cerebrospinal fluid by central chemoreceptors (CNS) in the medulla oblongata of the brainstem. Information from these sets of sensors is sent to the respiratory center which activates the effector organs – the diaphragm and other muscles of respiration. An increased level of carbon dioxide in the blood, or a decreased level of oxygen, will result in a deeper breathing pattern and increased respiratory rate to bring the blood gases back to equilibrium.
Too little carbon dioxide, and, to a lesser extent, too much oxygen in the blood can temporarily halt breathing, a condition known as apnea, which freedivers use to prolong the time they can stay underwater.
The partial pressure of carbon dioxide is more of a deciding factor in the monitoring of pH. However, at high altitude (above 2500 m) the monitoring of the partial pressure of oxygen takes priority, and hyperventilation keeps the oxygen level constant. With the lower level of carbon dioxide, to keep the pH at 7.4 the kidneys secrete hydrogen ions into the blood, and excrete bicarbonate into the urine. This is important in the acclimatization to high altitude.
The kidneys measure the oxygen content rather than the partial pressure of oxygen in the arterial blood. When the oxygen content of the blood is chronically low, oxygen-sensitive cells secrete erythropoietin (EPO) into the blood. The effector tissue is the red bone marrow which produces red blood cells (RBCs)(erythrocytes). The increase in RBCs leads to an increased hematocrit in the blood, and subsequent increase in hemoglobin that increases the oxygen carrying capacity. This is the mechanism whereby high altitude dwellers have higher hematocrits than sea-level residents, and also why persons with pulmonary insufficiency or right-to-left shunts in the heart (through which venous blood by-passes the lungs and goes directly into the systemic circulation) have similarly high hematocrits.
Regardless of the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood, the amount of oxygen that can be carried, depends on the hemoglobin content. The partial pressure of oxygen may be sufficient for example in anemia, but the hemoglobin content will be insufficient and subsequently as will be the oxygen content. Given enough supply of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid, EPO can stimulate RBC production, and hemoglobin and oxygen content restored to normal.
High pressure receptors called baroreceptors in the walls of the aortic arch and carotid sinus (at the beginning of the internal carotid artery) monitor the arterial blood pressure. Rising pressure is detected when the walls of the arteries stretch due to an increase in blood volume. This causes heart muscle cells to secrete the hormone atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) into the blood. This acts on the kidneys to inhibit the secretion of renin and aldosterone causing the release of sodium, and accompanying water into the urine, thereby reducing the blood volume. This information is then conveyed, via afferent nerve fibers, to the solitary nucleus in the medulla oblongata. From here motor nerves belonging to the autonomic nervous system are stimulated to influence the activity of chiefly the heart and the smallest diameter arteries, called arterioles. The arterioles are the main resistance vessels in the arterial tree, and small changes in diameter cause large changes in the resistance to flow through them. When the arterial blood pressure rises the arterioles are stimulated to dilate making it easier for blood to leave the arteries, thus deflating them, and bringing the blood pressure down, back to normal. At the same time the heart is stimulated via cholinergic parasympathetic nerves to beat more slowly (called bradycardia), ensuring that the inflow of blood into the arteries is reduced, thus adding to the reduction in pressure, and correction of the original error.
Low pressure in the arteries, causes the opposite reflex of constriction of the arterioles, and a speeding up of the heart rate (called tachycardia). If the drop in blood pressure is very rapid or excessive, the medulla oblongata stimulates the adrenal medulla, via "preganglionic" sympathetic nerves, to secrete epinephrine (adrenaline) into the blood. This hormone enhances the tachycardia and causes severe vasoconstriction of the arterioles to all but the essential organ in the body (especially the heart, lungs, and brain). These reactions usually correct the low arterial blood pressure (hypotension) very effectively.
The plasma ionized calcium (Ca2+) concentration is very tightly controlled by a pair of homeostatic mechanisms. The sensor for the first one is situated in the parathyroid glands, where the chief cells sense the Ca2+ level by means of specialized calcium receptors in their membranes. The sensors for the second are the parafollicular cells in the thyroid gland. The parathyroid chief cells secrete parathyroid hormone (PTH) in response to a fall in the plasma ionized calcium level; the parafollicular cells of the thyroid gland secrete calcitonin in response to a rise in the plasma ionized calcium level.
The effector organs of the first homeostatic mechanism are the bones, the kidney, and, via a hormone released into the blood by the kidney in response to high PTH levels in the blood, the duodenum and jejunum. Parathyroid hormone (in high concentrations in the blood) causes bone resorption, releasing calcium into the plasma. This is a very rapid action which can correct a threatening hypocalcemia within minutes. High PTH concentrations cause the excretion of phosphate ions via the urine. Since phosphates combine with calcium ions to form insoluble salts, a decrease in the level of phosphates in the blood, releases free calcium ions into the plasma ionized calcium pool. PTH has a second action on the kidneys. It stimulates the manufacture and release, by the kidneys, of calcitriol into the blood. This steroid hormone acts on the epithelial cells of the upper small intestine, increasing their capacity to absorb calcium from the gut contents into the blood.
The second homeostatic mechanism, with its sensors in the thyroid gland, releases calcitonin into the blood when the blood ionized calcium rises. This hormone acts primarily on bone, causing the rapid removal of calcium from the blood and depositing it, in insoluble form, in the bones.
The two homeostatic mechanisms working through PTH on the one hand, and calcitonin on the other can very rapidly correct any impending error in the plasma ionized calcium level by either removing calcium from the blood and depositing it in the skeleton, or by removing calcium from it. The skeleton acts as an extremely large calcium store (about 1 kg) compared with the plasma calcium store (about 180 mg). Longer term regulation occurs through calcium absorption or loss from the gut.
The homeostatic mechanism which controls the plasma sodium concentration is rather more complex than most of the other homeostatic mechanisms described on this page.
The sensor is situated in the juxtaglomerular apparatus of kidneys, which senses the plasma sodium concentration in a surprisingly indirect manner. Instead of measuring it directly in the blood flowing past the juxtaglomerular cells, these cells respond to the sodium concentration in the renal tubular fluid after it has already undergone a certain amount of modification in the proximal convoluted tubule and loop of Henle. These cells also respond to rate of blood flow through the juxtaglomerular apparatus, which, under normal circumstances, is directly proportional to the arterial blood pressure, making this tissue an ancillary arterial blood pressure sensor.
In response to a lowering of the plasma sodium concentration, or to a fall in the arterial blood pressure, the juxtaglomerular cells release renin into the blood. Renin is an enzyme which cleaves a decapeptide (a short protein chain, 10 amino acids long) from a plasma α-2-globulin called angiotensinogen. This decapeptide is known as angiotensin I. It has no known biological activity. However, when the blood circulates through the lungs a pulmonary capillary endothelial enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) cleaves a further two amino acids from angiotensin I to form an octapeptide known as angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is a hormone which acts on the adrenal cortex, causing the release into the blood of the steroid hormone, aldosterone. Angiotensin II also acts on the smooth muscle in the walls of the arterioles causing these small diameter vessels to constrict, thereby restricting the outflow of blood from the arterial tree, causing the arterial blood pressure to rise. This, therefore, reinforces the measures described above (under the heading of "Arterial blood pressure"), which defend the arterial blood pressure against changes, especially hypotension.
The angiotensin II-stimulated aldosterone released from the zona glomerulosa of the adrenal glands has an effect on particularly the epithelial cells of the distal convoluted tubules and collecting ducts of the kidneys. Here it causes the reabsorption of sodium ions from the renal tubular fluid, in exchange for potassium ions which are secreted from the blood plasma into the tubular fluid to exit the body via the urine. The reabsorption of sodium ions from the renal tubular fluid halts further sodium ion losses from the body, and therefore preventing the worsening of hyponatremia. The hyponatremia can only be corrected by the consumption of salt in the diet. However, it is not certain whether a "salt hunger" can be initiated by hyponatremia, or by what mechanism this might come about.
When the plasma sodium ion concentration is higher than normal (hypernatremia), the release of renin from the juxtaglomerular apparatus is halted, ceasing the production of angiotensin II, and its consequent aldosterone-release into the blood. The kidneys respond by excreting sodium ions into the urine, thereby normalizing the plasma sodium ion concentration. The low angiotensin II levels in the blood lower the arterial blood pressure as an inevitable concomitant response.
The reabsorption of sodium ions from the tubular fluid as a result of high aldosterone levels in the blood does not, of itself, cause renal tubular water to be returned to the blood from the distal convoluted tubules or collecting ducts. This is because sodium is reabsorbed in exchange for potassium and therefore causes only a modest change in the osmotic gradient between the blood and the tubular fluid. Furthermore, the epithelium of the distal convoluted tubules and collecting ducts is impermeable to water in the absence of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in the blood. ADH is part of the control of fluid balance. Its levels in the blood vary with the osmolality of the plasma, which is measured in the hypothalamus of the brain. Aldosterone's action on the kidney tubules prevents sodium loss to the extracellular fluid (ECF). So there is no change in the osmolality of the ECF, and therefore no change in the ADH concentration of the plasma. However, low aldosterone levels cause a loss of sodium ions from the ECF, which could potentially cause a change in extracellular osmolality and therefore of ADH levels in the blood.
High potassium concentrations in the plasma cause depolarization of the zona glomerulosa cells' membranes in the outer layer of the adrenal cortex. This causes the release of aldosterone into the blood.
Aldosterone acts primarily on the distal convoluted tubules and collecting ducts of the kidneys, stimulating the excretion of potassium ions into the urine. It does so, however, by activating the basolateral Na+/K+ pumps of the tubular epithelial cells. These sodium/potassium exchangers pump three sodium ions out of the cell, into the interstitial fluid and two potassium ions into the cell from the interstitial fluid. This creates an ionic concentration gradient which results in the reabsorption of sodium (Na+) ions from the tubular fluid into the blood, and secreting potassium (K+) ions from the blood into the urine (lumen of collecting duct).
The total amount of water in the body needs to be kept in balance. Fluid balance involves keeping the fluid volume stabilized, and also keeping the levels of electrolytes in the extracellular fluid stable. Fluid balance is maintained by the process of osmoregulation and by behavior. Osmotic pressure is detected by osmoreceptors in the median preoptic nucleus in the hypothalamus. Measurement of the plasma osmolality to give an indication of the water content of the body, relies on the fact that water losses from the body, (through unavoidable water loss through the skin which is not entirely waterproof and therefore always slightly moist, water vapor in the exhaled air, sweating, vomiting, normal feces and especially diarrhea) are all hypotonic, meaning that they are less salty than the body fluids (compare, for instance, the taste of saliva with that of tears. The latter has almost the same salt content as the extracellular fluid, whereas the former is hypotonic with respect to the plasma. Saliva does not taste salty, whereas tears are decidedly salty). Nearly all normal and abnormal losses of body water therefore cause the extracellular fluid to become hypertonic. Conversely, excessive fluid intake dilutes the extracellular fluid causing the hypothalamus to register hypotonic hyponatremia conditions.
When the hypothalamus detects a hypertonic extracellular environment, it causes the secretion of an antidiuretic hormone (ADH) called vasopressin which acts on the effector organ, which in this case is the kidney. The effect of vasopressin on the kidney tubules is to reabsorb water from the distal convoluted tubules and collecting ducts, thus preventing aggravation of the water loss via the urine. The hypothalamus simultaneously stimulates the nearby thirst center causing an almost irresistible (if the hypertonicity is severe enough) urge to drink water. The cessation of urine flow prevents the hypovolemia and hypertonicity from getting worse; the drinking of water corrects the defect.
Hypo-osmolality results in very low plasma ADH levels. This results in the inhibition of water reabsorption from the kidney tubules, causing high volumes of very dilute urine to be excreted, thus getting rid of the excess water in the body.
Urinary water loss, when the body water homeostat is intact, is a compensatory water loss, correcting any water excess in the body. However, since the kidneys cannot generate water, the thirst reflex is the all-important second effector mechanism of the body water homeostat, correcting any water deficit in the body.
The plasma pH can be altered by respiratory changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide; or altered by metabolic changes in the carbonic acid to bicarbonate ion ratio. The bicarbonate buffer system regulates the ratio of carbonic acid to bicarbonate to be equal to 1:20, at which ratio the blood pH is 7.4 (as explained in the Henderson–Hasselbalch equation). A change in the plasma pH gives an acid–base imbalance. In acid–base homeostasis there are two mechanisms that can help regulate the pH. Respiratory compensation a mechanism of the respiratory center, adjusts the partial pressure of carbon dioxide by changing the rate and depth of breathing, to bring the pH back to normal. The partial pressure of carbon dioxide also determines the concentration of carbonic acid, and the bicarbonate buffer system can also come into play. Renal compensation can help the bicarbonate buffer system. The sensor for the plasma bicarbonate concentration is not known for certain. It is very probable that the renal tubular cells of the distal convoluted tubules are themselves sensitive to the pH of the plasma. The metabolism of these cells produces carbon dioxide, which is rapidly converted to hydrogen and bicarbonate through the action of carbonic anhydrase. When the ECF pH falls (becoming more acidic) the renal tubular cells excrete hydrogen ions into the tubular fluid to leave the body via urine. Bicarbonate ions are simultaneously secreted into the blood that decreases the carbonic acid, and consequently raises the plasma pH. The converse happens when the plasma pH rises above normal: bicarbonate ions are excreted into the urine, and hydrogen ions released into the plasma.
When hydrogen ions are excreted into the urine, and bicarbonate into the blood, the latter combines with the excess hydrogen ions in the plasma that stimulated the kidneys to perform this operation. The resulting reaction in the plasma is the formation of carbonic acid which is in equilibrium with the plasma partial pressure of carbon dioxide. This is tightly regulated to ensure that there is no excessive build-up of carbonic acid or bicarbonate. The overall effect is therefore that hydrogen ions are lost in the urine when the pH of the plasma falls. The concomitant rise in the plasma bicarbonate mops up the increased hydrogen ions (caused by the fall in plasma pH) and the resulting excess carbonic acid is disposed of in the lungs as carbon dioxide. This restores the normal ratio between bicarbonate and the partial pressure of carbon dioxide and therefore the plasma pH. The converse happens when a high plasma pH stimulates the kidneys to secrete hydrogen ions into the blood and to excrete bicarbonate into the urine. The hydrogen ions combine with the excess bicarbonate ions in the plasma, once again forming an excess of carbonic acid which can be exhaled, as carbon dioxide, in the lungs, keeping the plasma bicarbonate ion concentration, the partial pressure of carbon dioxide and, therefore, the plasma pH, constant.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) allows for regulation of the distribution of substances between cells of the brain, and neuroendocrine factors, to which slight changes can cause problems or damage to the nervous system. For example, high glycine concentration disrupts temperature and blood pressure control, and high CSF pH causes dizziness and syncope.
Inhibitory neurons in the central nervous system play a homeostatic role in the balance of neuronal activity between excitation and inhibition. Inhibitory neurons using GABA, make compensating changes in the neuronal networks preventing runaway levels of excitation. An imbalance between excitation and inhibition is seen to be implicated in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders.
The neuroendocrine system is the mechanism by which the hypothalamus maintains homeostasis, regulating metabolism, reproduction, eating and drinking behaviour, energy utilization, osmolarity and blood pressure.
The regulation of metabolism, is carried out by hypothalamic interconnections to other glands. Three endocrine glands of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis (HPG axis) often work together and have important regulatory functions. Two other regulatory endocrine axes are the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) and the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis (HPT axis).
The liver also has many regulatory functions of the metabolism. An important function is the production and control of bile acids. Too much bile acid can be toxic to cells and its synthesis can be inhibited by activation of FXR a nuclear receptor.
The amount of energy taken in through nutrition needs to match the amount of energy used. To achieve energy homeostasis appetite is regulated by two hormones, grehlin and leptin. Grehlin stimulates hunger and the intake of food and leptin acts to signal satiety (fullness).
Many diseases are the result of a homeostatic failure. Almost any homeostatic component can malfunction either as a result of an inherited defect, an inborn error of metabolism, or an acquired disease. Some homeostatic mechanisms have inbuilt redundancies, which ensures that life is not immediately threatened if a component malfunctions; but sometimes a homeostatic malfunction can result in serious disease, which can be fatal if not treated. A well-known example of a homeostatic failure is shown in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Here blood sugar regulation is unable to function because the beta cells of the pancreatic islets are destroyed and cannot produce the necessary insulin. The blood sugar rises in a condition known as hyperglycemia.
The plasma ionized calcium homeostat can be disrupted by the constant, unchanging, over-production of parathyroid hormone by a parathyroid adenoma resulting in the typically features of hyperparathyroidism, namely high plasma ionized Ca2+ levels and the resorption of bone, which can lead to spontaneous fractures. The abnormally high plasma ionized calcium concentrations cause conformational changes in many cell-surface proteins (especially ion channels and hormone or neurotransmitter receptors) giving rise to lethargy, muscle weakness, anorexia, constipation and labile emotions.
The body water homeostat can be compromised by the inability to secrete ADH in response to even the normal daily water losses via the exhaled air, the feces, and insensible sweating. On receiving a zero blood ADH signal, the kidneys produce huge unchanging volumes of very dilute urine, causing dehydration and death if not treated.
As organisms age, the efficiency of their control systems becomes reduced. The inefficiencies gradually result in an unstable internal environment that increases the risk of illness, and leads to the physical changes associated with aging.
Various chronic diseases are kept under control by homeostatic compensation, which masks a problem by compensating for it (making up for it) in another way. However, the compensating mechanisms eventually wear out or are disrupted by a new complicating factor (such as the advent of a concurrent acute viral infection), which sends the body reeling through a new cascade of events. Such decompensation unmasks the underlying disease, worsening its symptoms. Common examples include decompensated heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure.
In the Gaia hypothesis, James Lovelock stated that the entire mass of living matter on Earth (or any planet with life) functions as a vast homeostatic superorganism that actively modifies its planetary environment to produce the environmental conditions necessary for its own survival. In this view, the entire planet maintains several homeostasis (the primary one being temperature homeostasis). Whether this sort of system is present on Earth is open to debate. However, some relatively simple homeostatic mechanisms are generally accepted. For example, it is sometimes claimed that when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, certain plants may be able to grow better and thus act to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, warming has exacerbated droughts, making water the actual limiting factor on land. When sunlight is plentiful and the atmospheric temperature climbs, it has been claimed that the phytoplankton of the ocean surface waters, acting as global sunshine, and therefore heat sensors, may thrive and produce more dimethyl sulfide (DMS). The DMS molecules act as cloud condensation nuclei, which produce more clouds, and thus increase the atmospheric albedo, and this feeds back to lower the temperature of the atmosphere. However, rising sea temperature has stratified the oceans, separating warm, sunlit waters from cool, nutrient-rich waters. Thus, nutrients have become the limiting factor, and plankton levels have actually fallen over the past 50 years, not risen. As scientists discover more about Earth, vast numbers of positive and negative feedback loops are being discovered, that, together, maintain a metastable condition, sometimes within a very broad range of environmental conditions.
Predictive homeostasis is an anticipatory response to an expected challenge in the future, such as the stimulation of insulin secretion by gut hormones which enter the blood in response to a meal. This insulin secretion occurs before the blood sugar level rises, lowering the blood sugar level in anticipation of a large influx into the blood of glucose resulting from the digestion of carbohydrates in the gut. Such anticipatory reactions are open loop systems which are based, essentially, on "guess work", and are not self-correcting. Anticipatory responses always require a closed loop negative feedback system to correct the 'over-shoots' and 'under-shoots' to which the anticipatory systems are prone.
The term has come to be used in other fields, for example:
An actuary may refer to risk homeostasis, where (for example) people who have anti-lock brakes have no better safety record than those without anti-lock brakes, because the former unconsciously compensate for the safer vehicle via less-safe driving habits. Previous to the innovation of anti-lock brakes, certain maneuvers involved minor skids, evoking fear and avoidance: Now the anti-lock system moves the boundary for such feedback, and behavior patterns expand into the no-longer punitive area. It has also been suggested that ecological crises are an instance of risk homeostasis in which a particular behavior continues until proven dangerous or dramatic consequences actually occur.
Sociologists and psychologists may refer to stress homeostasis, the tendency of a population or an individual to stay at a certain level of stress, often generating artificial stresses if the "natural" level of stress is not enough.
Jean-François Lyotard, a postmodern theorist, has applied this term to societal 'power centers' that he describes in The Postmodern Condition, as being 'governed by a principle of homeostasis,' for example, the scientific hierarchy, which will sometimes ignore a radical new discovery for years because it destabilizes previously accepted norms.
Familiar technological homeostatic mechanisms include:
Acid–base homeostasis is the homeostatic regulation of the pH of the body's extracellular fluid (ECF). The proper balance between the acids and bases (i.e. the pH) in the ECF is crucial for the normal physiology of the body, and cellular metabolism. The pH of the intracellular fluid and the extracellular fluid need to be maintained at a constant level.Many extracellular proteins such as the plasma proteins and membrane proteins of the body's cells are very sensitive for their three dimensional structures to the extracellular pH. Stringent mechanisms therefore exist to maintain the pH within very narrow limits. Outside the acceptable range of pH, proteins are denatured (i.e. their 3-D structure is disrupted), causing enzymes and ion channels (among others) to malfunction.
In humans and many other animals, acid–base homeostasis is maintained by multiple mechanisms involved in three lines of defence:
The first line of defence are the various chemical buffers which minimize pH changes that would otherwise occur in their absence. They do not correct pH deviations, but only serve to reduce the extent of the change that would otherwise occur. These buffers include the bicarbonate buffer system, the phosphate buffer system, and the protein buffer system.The second line of defence of the pH of the ECF consists of controlling of the carbonic acid concentration in the ECF. This is achieved by changes in the rate and depth of breathing (i.e. by hyperventilation or hypoventilation), which blows off or retains carbon dioxide (and thus carbonic acid) in the blood plasma.The third line of defence is the renal system, which can add or remove bicarbonate ions to or from the ECF. The bicarbonate is derived from metabolic carbon dioxide which is enzymatically converted to carbonic acid in the renal tubular cells. The carbonic acid spontaneously dissociates into hydrogen ions and bicarbonate ions. When the pH in the ECF tends to fall (i.e. become more acidic) the hydrogen ions are excreted into the urine, while the bicarbonate ions are secreted into the blood plasma, causing the plasma pH to rise (correcting the initial fall). The converse happens if the pH in the ECF tends to rise: the bicarbonate ions are then excreted into the urine and the hydrogen ions into the blood plasma.Physiological corrective measures make up the second and third lines of defence. This is because they operate by making changes to the buffers, each of which consists of two components: a weak acid and its conjugate base. It is the ratio concentration of the weak acid to its conjugate base that determines the pH of the solution. Thus, by manipulating firstly the concentration of the weak acid, and secondly that of its conjugate base, the pH of the extracellular fluid (ECF) can be adjusted very accurately to the correct value. The bicarbonate buffer, consisting of a mixture of carbonic acid (H2CO3) and a bicarbonate (HCO−3) salt in solution, is the most abundant buffer in the extracellular fluid, and it is also the buffer whose acid to base ratio can be changed very easily and rapidly.An acid–base imbalance is known as acidaemia when the acidity is high, or alkalaemia when the acidity is low.Adenosine receptor
The adenosine receptors (or P1 receptors) are a class of purinergic G protein-coupled receptors with adenosine as endogenous ligand. There are four known types of adenosine receptors in humans: A1, A2A, A2B and A3; each is encoded by a different gene.
The adenosine receptors are commonly known for their antagonists caffeine and theophylline, whose action on the receptors produces the stimulating effects of coffee, tea and chocolate.Bioinorganic chemistry
Bioinorganic chemistry is a field that examines the role of metals in biology. Bioinorganic chemistry includes the study of both natural phenomena such as the behavior of metalloproteins as well as artificially introduced metals, including those that are non-essential, in medicine and toxicology. Many biological processes such as respiration depend upon molecules that fall within the realm of inorganic chemistry. The discipline also includes the study of inorganic models or mimics that imitate the behaviour of metalloproteins.As a mix of biochemistry and inorganic chemistry, bioinorganic chemistry is important in elucidating the implications of electron-transfer proteins, substrate bindings and activation, atom and group transfer chemistry as well as metal properties in biological chemistry.Biological process
Biological processes are the processes vital for a living organism to live, and that shape its capacities for interacting with its environment. Biological processes are made up of many chemical reactions or other events that are involved in the persistence and transformation of life forms. Metabolism and homeostasis are examples.
Regulation of biological processes occurs when any process is modulated in its frequency, rate or extent. Biological processes are regulated by many means; examples include the control of gene expression, protein modification or interaction with a protein or substrate molecule.
Homeostasis: regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, sweating to reduce temperature
Organization: being structurally composed of one or more cells – the basic units of life
Metabolism: transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.
Growth: maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.
Adaptation: the ability to change over time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism's heredity, diet, and external factors.
Response to stimuli: a response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of multicellular organisms. A response is often expressed by motion; for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism), and chemotaxis.
Reproduction: the ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism or sexually from two parent organisms.
Interaction between organisms. the processes by which an organism has an observable effect on another organism of the same or different species.
Also: cellular differentiation, fermentation, fertilisation, germination, tropism, hybridisation, metamorphosis, morphogenesis, photosynthesis, transpiration.Biology
Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their physical structure, chemical processes, molecular interactions, physiological mechanisms, development and evolution. Despite the complexity of the science, there are certain unifying concepts that consolidate it into a single, coherent field. Biology recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the creation and extinction of species. Living organisms are open systems that survive by transforming energy and decreasing their local entropy to maintain a stable and vital condition defined as homeostasis.Sub-disciplines of biology are defined by the research methods employed and the kind of system studied: theoretical biology uses mathematical methods to formulate quantitative models while experimental biology performs empirical experiments to test the validity of proposed theories and understand the mechanisms underlying life and how it appeared and evolved from non-living matter about 4 billion years ago through a gradual increase in the complexity of the system. See branches of biology.Blood sugar level
The blood sugar level, blood sugar concentration, or blood glucose level is the amount of glucose present in the blood of humans and other animals. Glucose is a simple sugar and approximately 4 grams of glucose are present in the blood of a 70-kilogram (150 lb) human at all times. The body tightly regulates blood glucose levels as a part of metabolic homeostasis. Glucose is stored in skeletal muscle and liver cells in the form of glycogen; in fasted individuals, blood glucose is maintained at a constant level at the expense of glycogen stores in the liver and skeletal muscle.In humans, a blood glucose level of four grams, or about a teaspoon, is critical for normal function in a number of tissues, and the human brain consumes approximately 60% of blood glucose in fasted, sedentary individuals. A persistent elevation in blood glucose leads to glucose toxicity, which contributes to cell dysfunction and the pathology grouped together as complications of diabetes. Glucose can be transported from the intestines or liver to other tissues in the body via the bloodstream. Cellular glucose uptake is primarily regulated by insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas.Glucose levels are usually lowest in the morning, before the first meal of the day, and rise after meals for an hour or two by a few millimoles.
Blood sugar levels outside the normal range may be an indicator of a medical condition. A persistently high level is referred to as hyperglycemia; low levels are referred to as hypoglycemia. Diabetes mellitus is characterized by persistent hyperglycemia from any of several causes, and is the most prominent disease related to failure of blood sugar regulation. There are different methods of testing and measuring blood sugar levels.
The intake of alcohol causes an initial surge in blood sugar, and later tends to cause levels to fall. Also, certain drugs can increase or decrease glucose levels.Calcium metabolism
Calcium metabolism refers to the movements and regulation of calcium ions (Ca2+) in and out of various body compartments, such as the gastrointestinal tract, the blood plasma, the extracellular and intracellular fluids, and bone tissue. An important aspect of calcium metabolism is plasma calcium homeostasis, the regulation of calcium ions in the blood plasma within narrow limits. In this process, bone tissue acts as a calcium storage center for deposits and withdrawals as needed by the blood, via continual bone remodeling. Derangement of this mechanism leads to hypercalcemia or hypocalcemia, both of which can have consequences for health. The level of the calcium in humans' plasma is regulated by calcitonin and parathyroid hormone (PTH); calcitonin is released by the thyroid gland when its plasma level is above its set normal point (in order to lower calcium level); PTH is released by the parathyroid glands when calcium level falls below set point (in order to raise it).Ecological stoichiometry
Ecological stoichiometry (more broadly referred to as Biological stoichiometry) considers how the balance of energy and elements influences living systems. Similar to chemical stoichiometry, ecological stoichiometry is founded on constraints of mass balance as they apply to organisms and their interactions in ecosystems. Specifically, how does the balance of energy and elements affect and how is this balance affected by organisms and their interactions. Concepts of ecological stoichiometry have a long history in ecology with early references to the constraints of mass balance made by Liebig, Lotka, and Redfield. These earlier concepts have been extended to explicitly link the elemental physiology of organisms to their food web interactions and ecosystem function.
Most work in ecological stoichiometry focuses on the interface between an organism and its resources. This interface, whether it is between plants and their nutrient resources or large herbivores and grasses, is often characterized by dramatic differences in the elemental composition of each part. The difference, or mismatch, between the elemental demands of organisms and the elemental composition of resources leads to an elemental imbalance. Consider termites, which have a tissue carbon:nitrogen ratio (C:N) of about 5 yet consume wood with a C:N ratio of 300-1000. Ecological stoichiometry primarily asks:
why do elemental imbalances arise in nature?
how is consumer physiology and life-history affected by elemental imbalances? and
what are the subsequent effects on ecosystem processes?Elemental imbalances arise for a number of physiological and evolutionary reasons related to the differences in the biological make up of organisms, such as differences in types and amounts of macromolecules, organelles, and tissues. Organisms differ in the flexibility of their biological make up and therefore in the degree to which organisms can maintain a constant chemical composition in the face of variations in their resources. Variations in resources can be related to the types of needed resources, their relative availability in time and space, and how they are acquired. The ability to maintain internal chemical composition despite changes in the chemical composition and availability of resources is referred to as "stoichiometric homeostasis". Like the general biological notion of homeostasis, elemental homeostasis refers to the maintenance of elemental composition within some biologically ordered range. Photoautotrophic organisms, such as algae and vascular plants, can exhibit a very wide range of physiological plasticity in elemental composition and thus have relatively weak stoichiometric homeostasis. In contrast, other organisms, such as multicellular animals, have close to strict homeostasis and they can be thought of as having distinct chemical composition. For example, carbon to phosphorus ratios in the suspended organic matter in lakes (i.e., algae, bacteria, and detritus) can vary between 100 and 1000 whereas C:P ratios of Daphnia, a crustacean zooplankton, remain nearly constant at 80:1. The general differences in stoichiometric homeostasis between plants and animals can lead to large and variable elemental imbalances between consumers and resources.
Ecological stoichiometry seeks to discover how the chemical content of organisms shapes their ecology. Ecological stoichiometry has been applied to studies of nutrient recycling, resource competition, animal growth, and nutrient limitation patterns in whole ecosystems. The Redfield ratio of the world's oceans is one very famous application of stoichiometric principles to ecology. Ecological stoichiometry also considers phenomena at the sub-cellular level, such as the P-content of a ribosome, as well as phenomena at the whole biosphere level, such as the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere.
To date the research framework of ecological stoichiometry stimulated research in various fields of biology, ecology, biochemistry and human health, including human microbiome research, cancer research, food web interactions, population dynamics, ecosystem services, productivity of agricultural crops and honeybee nutrition.Endocrine disease
Endocrine diseases are disorders of the endocrine system. The branch of medicine associated with endocrine disorders is known as endocrinology.Endogeny (biology)
Endogenous links here. For the context of economics, see Exogenous and endogenous variables. Endogenous substances and processes are those that originate from within an organism, tissue, or cell.Endogenous viral elements are DNA sequences derived from viruses that are ancestrally inserted into the genomes of germ cells. These sequences, which may be fragments of viruses or entire viral genomes (proviruses), can persist in the germline, being passed on from one generation to the next as host alleles.
Endogenous processes include senescence, the menstrual cycle and the self-sustained circadian rhythms of plants and animals.
In some biological systems, endogeneity pertains to the recipient of DNA (usually in prokaryotes). However, because of homeostasis, discerning between internal and external influences is often difficult.
Endogenous transcription factors are those manufactured by the cell, as distinguished from cloned transcription factors.Energy homeostasis
In biology, energy homeostasis, or the homeostatic control of energy balance, is a biological process that involves the coordinated homeostatic regulation of food intake (energy inflow) and energy expenditure (energy outflow). The human brain, particularly the hypothalamus, plays a central role in regulating energy homeostasis and generating the sense of hunger by integrating a number of biochemical signals that transmit information about energy balance. Fifty percent of the energy from glucose metabolism is immediately converted to heat.Energy homeostasis is an important aspect of bioenergetics.Gaia hypothesis
The Gaia hypothesis (, , ), also known as the Gaia theory or the Gaia principle, proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.
The hypothesis was formulated by the chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s. Lovelock named the idea after Gaia, the primordial goddess who personified the Earth in Greek mythology. In 2006, the Geological Society of London awarded Lovelock the Wollaston Medal in part for his work on the Gaia hypothesis.Topics related to the hypothesis include how the biosphere and the evolution of organisms affect the stability of global temperature, salinity of seawater, atmospheric oxygen levels, the maintenance of a hydrosphere of liquid water and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth.
The Gaia hypothesis was initially criticized for being teleological and against the principles of natural selection, but later refinements aligned the Gaia hypothesis with ideas from fields such as Earth system science, biogeochemistry and systems ecology. Lovelock also once described the "geophysiology" of the Earth. Even so, the Gaia hypothesis continues to attract criticism, and today some scientists consider it to be only weakly supported by, or at odds with, the available evidence.Human body
The human body is the structure of a human being. It is composed of many different types of cells that together create tissues and subsequently organ systems. They ensure homeostasis and the viability of the human body.
It comprises a head, neck, trunk (which includes the thorax and abdomen), arms and hands, legs and feet.
The study of the human body involves anatomy, physiology, histology and embryology. The body varies anatomically in known ways. Physiology focuses on the systems and organs of the human body and their functions. Many systems and mechanisms interact in order to maintain homeostasis, with safe levels of substances such as sugar and oxygen in the blood.
The body is studied by health professionals, physiologists, anatomists, and by artists to assist them in their work.Human iron metabolism
Human iron metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that maintain human homeostasis of iron at the systemic and cellular level. Iron is both necessary to the body and potentially toxic. Controlling iron levels in the body is a critically important part of many aspects of human health and disease. Hematologists have been especially interested in systemic iron metabolism because iron is essential for red blood cells, where most of the human body's iron is contained. Understanding iron metabolism is also important for understanding diseases of iron overload, such as hereditary hemochromatosis, and iron deficiency, such as iron deficiency anemia.Hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis
The hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis (HPT axis for short, a.k.a. thyroid homeostasis or thyrotropic feedback control) is part of the neuroendocrine system responsible for the regulation of metabolism.
As its name suggests, it depends upon the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the thyroid gland.
The hypothalamus senses low circulating levels of thyroid hormone (Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4)) and responds by releasing thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). The TRH stimulates the anterior pituitary to produce thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The TSH, in turn, stimulates the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone until levels in the blood return to normal. Thyroid hormone exerts negative feedback control over the hypothalamus as well as anterior pituitary, thus controlling the release of both TRH from hypothalamus and TSH from anterior pituitary gland.The HPA, HPG, and HPT axes are three pathways in which the hypothalamus and pituitary direct neuroendocrine function.Integumentary system
The integumentary system comprises the skin and its appendages acting to protect the body from various kinds of damage, such as loss of water or damages from outside. The integumentary system includes hair, scales, feathers, hooves, and nails. It has a variety of additional functions; it may serve to waterproof, and protect the deeper tissues, excrete wastes, and regulate body temperature, and is the attachment site for sensory receptors to detect pain, sensation, pressure, and temperature. In most land vertebrates with significant exposure to sunlight, the integumentary system also provides for vitamin D synthesis.Jevons paradox
In economics, the Jevons paradox (; sometimes Jevons effect) occurs when technological progress or government policy increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (reducing the amount necessary for any one use), but the rate of consumption of that resource rises due to increasing demand. The Jevons paradox is perhaps the most widely known paradox in environmental economics. However, governments and environmentalists generally assume that efficiency gains will lower resource consumption, ignoring the possibility of the paradox arising.In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal-use led to the increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological progress could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.The issue has been re-examined by modern economists studying consumption rebound effects from improved energy efficiency. In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given use, improved efficiency also lowers the relative cost of using a resource, which increases the quantity demanded. This counteracts (to some extent) the reduction in use from improved efficiency. Additionally, improved efficiency increases real incomes and accelerates economic growth, further increasing the demand for resources. The Jevons paradox occurs when the effect from increased demand predominates, and improved efficiency increases the speed at which resources are used.Considerable debate exists about the size of the rebound in energy efficiency and the relevance of the Jevons paradox to energy conservation. Some dismiss the paradox, while others worry that it may be self-defeating to pursue sustainability by increasing energy efficiency. Some environmental economists have proposed that efficiency gains be coupled with conservation policies that keep the cost of use the same (or higher) to avoid the Jevons paradox. Conservation policies that increase cost of use (such as cap and trade or green taxes) can be used to control the rebound effect.Osmoregulation
Osmoregulation is the passive regulation of the osmotic pressure of an organism's body fluids, detected by osmoreceptors, to maintain the homeostasis of the organism's water content; that is, it maintains the fluid balance and the concentration of electrolytes (salts in solution) to keep the fluids from becoming too diluted or concentrated. Osmotic pressure is a measure of the tendency of water to move into one solution from another by osmosis. The higher the osmotic pressure of a solution, the more water tends to move into it. Pressure must be exerted on the hypertonic side of a selectively permeable membrane to prevent diffusion of water by osmosis from the side containing pure water.
Organisms in aquatic and terrestrial environments must maintain the right concentration of solutes and amount of water in their body fluids; this involves excretion (getting rid of metabolic nitrogen wastes and other substances such as hormones that would be toxic if allowed to accumulate in the blood) through organs such as the skin and the kidneys.Thermoregulation
Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different. A thermoconforming organism, by contrast, simply adopts the surrounding temperature as its own body temperature, thus avoiding the need for internal thermoregulation. The internal thermoregulation process is one aspect of homeostasis: a state of dynamic stability in an organism's internal conditions, maintained far from thermal equilibrium with its environment (the study of such processes in zoology has been called physiological ecology). If the body is unable to maintain a normal temperature and it increases significantly above normal, a condition known as hyperthermia occurs. For humans, this occurs when the body is exposed to constant temperatures of approximately 55 °C (131 °F), and with prolonged exposure (longer than a few hours) at this temperature and up to around 75 °C (167 °F) death is almost inevitable. Humans may also experience lethal hyperthermia when the wet bulb temperature is sustained above 35 °C (95 °F) for six hours. The opposite condition, when body temperature decreases below normal levels, is known as hypothermia. It results when the homeostatic control mechanisms of heat within the body malfunction, causing the body to lose heat faster than producing it. Normal body temperature is around 37 °C (99 °F), and hypothermia sets in when the core body temperature gets lower than 35 °C (95 °F). Usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, hypothermia is usually treated by methods that attempt to raise the body temperature back to a normal range.It was not until the introduction of thermometers that any exact data on the temperature of animals could be obtained. It was then found that local differences were present, since heat production and heat loss vary considerably in different parts of the body, although the circulation of the blood tends to bring about a mean temperature of the internal parts. Hence it is important to identify the parts of the body that most closely reflect the temperature of the internal organs. Also, for such results to be comparable, the measurements must be conducted under comparable conditions. The rectum has traditionally been considered to reflect most accurately the temperature of internal parts, or in some cases of sex or species, the vagina, uterus or bladder.Occasionally the temperature of the urine as it leaves the urethra may be of use in measuring body temperature. More often the temperature is taken in the mouth, axilla, ear or groin.Some animals undergo one of various forms of dormancy where the thermoregulation process temporarily allows the body temperature to drop, thereby conserving energy. Examples include hibernating bears and torpor in bats.
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