Oxygen and the Gradients of Life

James R. Munis

in Just Enough Physiology

Published on behalf of © Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199797790
Published online June 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199929665 | DOI:

Series: Mayo Clinic Scientific Press

Oxygen and the Gradients of Life

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Physiologically, what is the difference between a patient undergoing deep hypothermic circulatory arrest and another patient who has died and cooled to the same temperature? The answer resides inside the cells. During hypothermic arrest, physiologic functions of whole-organ systems are temporarily arrested, but the cells are still busy. Cellular metabolism is also slowed, but it's not completely stopped. One difference between the hypothermic-arrest patient and the dead patient is that the former has live cells and the latter has dead cells. And furthermore, one of the differences between live cells and dead cells is that live cells maintain certain important gradients across their membranes. Another difference is that dead cells have no metabolism. We often refer to cellular metabolism as ‘respiration,’ and we measure it by calculating how much oxygen is being used. This brings us to oxygen. Why do we define cellular metabolism in terms of oxygen consumption?

Chapter.  1409 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Professional Development in Medicine

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