Biomedical Importance

Water is the predominant chemical component of living organisms. Its unique physical properties, which include the ability to solvate a wide range of organic and inorganic molecules, derive from water's dipolar structure and exceptional capacity for forming hydrogen bonds. The manner in which water interacts with a sol-vated biomolecule influences the structure of each. An excellent nucleophile, water is a reactant or product in many metabolic reactions. Water has a slight propensity to dissociate into hydroxide ions and protons. The acidity of aqueous solutions is generally reported using the logarithmic pH scale. Bicarbonate and other buffers normally maintain the pH of extracellular fluid between 7.35 and 7.45. Suspected disturbances of acid-base balance are verified by measuring the pH of arterial blood and the CO2 content of venous blood. Causes of acidosis (blood pH < 7.35) include diabetic ketosis and lactic acidosis. Alkalosis (pH > 7.45) may, for example, follow vomiting of acidic gastric contents. Regulation of water balance depends upon hypothalamic mechanisms that control thirst, on antidiuretic hormone (ADH), on retention or excretion of water by the kidneys, and on evaporative loss. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, which involves the inability to concentrate urine or adjust to subtle changes in extracellular fluid osmolarity, results from the unresponsiveness of renal tubular osmoreceptors to ADH.

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