Download / swf / 94 Kb

Living things must be capable of transporting nutrients, wastes and gases to and from cells. Single-celled organisms use their cell surface as a point of exchange with the outside environment. Multicellular organisms have developed transport and circulatory systems to deliver oxygen and food to cells and remove carbon dioxide and metabolic wastes. Sponges are the simplest animals, yet even they have a transport system.

Seawater is the medium of transport and is propelled in and out of the sponge by ciliary action. Simple animals, such as the hydra and planaria, lack specialized organs such as hearts and blood vessels, instead using their skin as an exchange point for materials. This, however, limits the size an animal can attain. To become larger, they need specialized organs and organ systems.

Download / swf / 95 Kb

The blood consists of a suspension of special cells in a liquid called plasma. In an adult man, the blood is about 1/12th of the body weight and this corresponds to 5-6 litres. Blood consists of 55 % plasma, and 45 % by cells called formed elements.

The blood performs a lot of important functions. By means of the hemoglobin contained in the erythrocytes, it carries oxygen to the tissues and collects the carbon dioxide (CO2). It also conveys nutritive substances (e.g. amino acids, sugars, mineral salts) and gathers the excreted material which will be eliminated through the renal filter. The blood also carries hormones, enzymes and vitamins. It performs the defense of the organism by mean of the phagocitic activity of the leukocytes, the bactericidal power of the serum and the immune response of which the lymphocytes are the protagonists.

ERYTHROCYTES (red cells)

The erythrocytes are the most numerous blood cells i.e. about 4-6 millions/mm3. They are also called red cells. In man and in all mammals, erythrocytes are devoid of a nucleus and have the shape of a biconcave lens. In the other vertebrates (e.g. fishes, amphibians, reptilians and birds), they have a nucleus. The red cells are rich in hemoglobin, a protein able to bind in a faint manner to oxygen. Hence, these cells are responsible for providing oxygen to tissues and partly for recovering carbon dioxide produced as waste. However, most CO2 is carried by plasma, in the form of soluble carbonates.

LEUKOCYTES (white cells)

Leukocytes, or white cells, are responsible for the defense of the organism. In the blood, they are much less numerous than red cells. The density of the leukocytes in the blood is 5000-7000 /mm3. Leukocytes divide in two categories: granulocytes and lymphoid cells or agranulocytes. The term granulocyte is due to the presence of granules in the cytoplasm of these cells. In the different types of granulocytes, the granules are different and help us to distinguish them. In fact, these granules have a different affinity towards neutral, acid or basic stains and give the cytoplasm different colors. So, granulocytes distinguish themselves in neutrophil, eosinophil (or acidophil) and basophil. The lymphoid cells, instead, distinguish themselves in lymphocytes and monocytes. As we will see later, even the shape of the nucleus helps us in the recognition of the leukocytes.

Download / swf / 111 Kb

Menstruation is the shedding of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) accompanied by bleeding. It occurs in approximately monthly cycles throughout a woman's reproductive life, except during pregnancy. Menstruation starts during puberty (at menarche) and stops permanently at menopause

By definition, the menstrual cycle begins with the first day of bleeding, which is counted as day 1. The cycle ends just before the next menstrual period. Menstrual cycles normally range from about 25 to 36 days. Only 10 to 15% of women have cycles that are exactly 28 days. Usually, the cycles vary the most and the intervals between periods are longest in the years immediately after menarche and before menopause.

Menstrual bleeding lasts 3 to 7 days, averaging 5 days. Blood loss during a cycle usually ranges from ½ to 2½ ounces. A sanitary pad or tampon, depending on the type, can hold up to an ounce of blood. Menstrual blood, unlike blood resulting from an injury, usually does not clot unless the bleeding is very heavy.

The menstrual cycle is regulated by hormones. Luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which are produced by the pituitary gland, promote ovulation and stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone stimulate the uterus and breasts to prepare for possible fertilization. The cycle has three phases: follicular (before release of the egg), ovulatory (egg release), and luteal (after egg release).

The menstrual cycle is regulated by the complex interaction of hormones: luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.

The menstrual cycle begins with menstrual bleeding (menstruation), which marks the first day of the follicular phase. Bleeding occurs after estrogen and progesterone levels decrease at the end of the previous cycle. This decrease causes the top layers of thickened lining of the uterus (endometrium) to break down and be shed. About this time, the follicle-stimulating hormone level increases slightly, stimulating the development of several ovarian follicles. Each follicle contains an egg. Later, as the follicle-stimulating hormone level decreases, only one follicle continues to develop. This follicle produces estrogen.

The ovulatory phase begins with a surge in luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone levels. Luteinizing hormone stimulates egg release (ovulation), which usually occurs 16 to 32 hours after the surge begins. The estrogen level peaks during the surge, and the progesterone level starts to increase.

During the luteal phase, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone levels decrease. The ruptured follicle closes after releasing the egg and forms a corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. During most of this phase, the estrogen level is high. Progesterone and estrogen cause the lining of the uterus to thicken more, to prepare for possible fertilization. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum degenerates and no longer produces progesterone, the estrogen level decreases, the top layers of the lining break down and are shed, and a new menstrual cycle begins.

Download / swf / 1737 Kb

Act in which the male reproductive organ enters the female reproductive tract (see reproductive system). Various sexual activities (foreplay) lead to physiological changes that progress to orgasm (climax) and resolution (see sexual response). If it is completed, semen passes from the male into the female's body. If conditions favour fertilization, a sperm joins with an egg, and pregnancy begins (see fertility; reproduction); contraception can prevent this. Intercourse with an unwilling female is rape

Download / swf / 95 Kb

Human reproduction employs internal fertilization, and depends on the integrated action of hormones, the nervous system, and the reproductive system. Gonads are sex organs that produce gametes. Male gonads are the testes, which produce sperm and male sex hormones. Female gonads are the ovaries, which produce eggs (ova) and female sex hormones.

The Male Reproductive System

Testes are suspended outside the abdominal cavity by the scrotum, a pouch of skin that keeps the testes close or far from the body at an optimal temperature for sperm development. Seminiferous tubules are inside each testis, and are where sperm are produced by meiosis. About 250 meters (850 feet) of tubules are packed into each testis. Spermatocytes inside the tubules divide by meiosis to produce spermatids that in turn develop into mature sperm.

The male reproductive system. Images from Purves et al., Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition, by Sinauer Associates (www.sinauer.com) and WH Freeman (www.whfreeman.com), used with permission.

Sperm production begins at puberty at continues throughout life, with several hundred million sperm being produced each day. Once sperm form they move into the epididymis, where they mature and are stored.

Human Sperm (SEM x5,785). This image is copyright Dennis Kunkel at www.DennisKunkel.com, used with permission.

Male Sex Hormones

The anterior pituitary produces follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Action of LH is controlled by the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). LH stimulates cells in the seminiferous tubules to secrete testosterone, which has a role in sperm production and developing male secondary sex characteristics. FSH acts on cells to help in sperm maturation. Negative feedback by testosterone controls the actions of GnRH.

Sperm pass through the vas deferens and connect to a short ejaculatory duct that connects to the urethra. The urethra passes through the penis and opens to the outside. Secretions from the seminal vesicles add fructose and prostaglandins to sperm as they pass. The prostate gland secretes a milky alkaline fluid. The bulbourethral gland secretes a mucus-like fluid that provides lubrication for intercourse. Sperm and secretions make up semen.

The Female Reproductive System

The female gonads, ovaries, are located within the lower abdominal cavity.

The female reporoductive system. Images from Purves et al., Life: The Science of Biology, 4th Edition, by Sinauer Associates (www.sinauer.com) and WH Freeman (www.whfreeman.com), used with permission.

The ovary contains many follicles composed of a developing egg surrounded by an outer layer of follicle cells. Each egg begins oogenesis as a primary oocyte. At birth each female carries a lifetime supply of developing oocytes, each of which is in Prophase I. A developing egg (secondary oocyte) is released each month from puberty until menopause, a total of 400-500 eggs.

Download / swf / 73 Kb

Recombinant DNA (rDNA) molecules are DNA sequences that result from the use of laboratory methods (molecular cloning) to bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that would not otherwise be found in biological organisms. Recombinant DNA is possible because DNA molecules from all organisms share the same chemical structure; they differ only in the sequence of nucleotides within that identical overall structure. Consequently, when DNA from a foreign source is linked to host sequences that can drive DNA replication and then introduced into a host organism, the foreign DNA is replicated along with the host DNA.