43533 - Physiology of Organs and Apparatuses

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Zero hunger Good health and well-being Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student: - knows the basic functional mechanisms of homeostasis of the internal medium, from the cellular level to the integrated level of organs, systems and apparatuses; - will be able to describe the basic functions of the circulatory, respiratory, renal, gastrontestinal and reproductive systems and the dynamic integration of their functions for the maintenance of the normal conditions of survival and health of the human organism; - will be able to detect and evaluate the main cardio-circulatory and respiratory functional parameters of subjects in normal and resting conditions.

Course contents

Reproductive system

Female reproductive system

Functional anatomy of the female reproductive system. Ovarian cycle. Estrogen and progesterone functions. Endometrial cycle. Hypothalamic control of ovarian function. Fertilization. Hormonal factors during pregnancy, delivery and lactation.

Male reproductive system

Functional anatomy of the male reproductive system. Spermatogenesis. Seminal fluid. Testosterone functions. Hypothalamic control of testicular function.


Cardiovascular system

Functional organization of the cardiovascular system

Scheme of the cardiovascular system. Functional characteristics of the systemic and pulmonary circulation. Blood composition, volume and functions. Hematic cells. Hemostasis.

Electrical activity of the heart

Electrical characteristics of cardiac cells. Origin and spread of cardiac excitation. Refractory period of the heart. Control of excitation and conduction in the heart. Electrocardiography.

Mechanical activity of the heart

Functional anatomy of the heart. Mechanical events of the cardiac cycle. Blood pressure and blood volume in atria and ventricles.

Control of cardiac output

Cardiac output: normal values and range of variation. Mechanisms of regulation of cardiac output: control of heart rate and stroke volume.

Vascular system

Characteristics and functions of the vascular system: arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules, veins and lymphatic vessels. Hemodynamics: relation between flow, pressure and resistance. Pressure profile in the systemic circulation. Return of venous blood to the heart. Diffusion across the capillary wall. Regulation of local blood flow.

Regulation of blood arterial pressure

Normal values and range of variation of the blood arterial pressure. Mechanisms of regulation of arterial pressure.

Cardiovascular functions during physical exercise

Changes in cardiac output, arterial pressure and venous return during physical exercise. Redistribution of blood flow and integration of cardio-vascular responses during physical exercise.


Respiratory system

Pulmonary ventilation

Functional anatomy of the respiratory system. Characteristics and functions of the conducting zone and alveolar walls. Mechanics of pulmonary ventilation. Changes of alveolar and intrapleural pressure during respiratory cycle. Ventilation and alveolar perfusion. Lung volumes and capacities.

Exchanges of gases in lungs and tissues

Composition of atmospheric and alveolar air. Ultrastructure of the air-blood barrier. Physical and biological factors involved in oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in lungs and tissues.

Blood transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide

Transport of oxygen in the blood. Oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve, functional implications and regulatory factors. Transport of carbon dioxide in the blood and regulatory factors.

Control mechanisms of respiratory activity

Neurogenesis of the respiratory rhythm. Brain structures involved in breathing control. Central and peripheral chemoreceptors, breathing control by carbon dioxide, pH and oxygen.


Urinary system

Basic renal processes

Functional anatomy of the kidney. Processes involved in urine production. Glomerular filtration: glomerular filtration barrier, velocity of filtration, physiological control of glomerular filtration. Tubular reabsorption and secretion. Renal clearance.

Diuresis regulation

Mechanism of urine concentration: the loop of Henle and the countercurrent multiplier system. Regulation of renal water and sodium reabsorption. Urination.

Regulation of acid-base balance

Biological buffer systems. Respiratory and renal homeostatic response to variations of the acid-base equilibrium.



Physiological mechanisms of heat production and loss. The normal body temperature. Factors affecting body temperature. Body temperature regulation. Fever.


Gastrointestinal system

Motor and secretory functions of the gastrointestinal system

Nervous and hormonal control of the functions of the digestive system. Chewing. Salivary secretion. Swallowing. Gastric motility and secretion. Vomit. Pancreatic and biliary secretion. Emptying of the gallbladder. Motility and secretions of the small and large intestine. Defecation.

Digestion and absorption

Digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. Functions of the intestinal microbiota.


E. Carbone, G. Aicardi, E. Maggi Fisiologia: dalle molecole ai sistemi integrati, (seconda edizione) EdiSES, 2018.

Teaching methods

Lectures using Power Point presentations.
Exercises showing how to perform the following functional tests in humans: electrocardiography, blood pressure measurement and spirometry.

Assessment methods

The learning test consists of two tests (each one can be divided into a written and an oral part), to be taken sequentially (the first one is preparatory to the second one).

1) The first test focuses on the didactic module "Neurophysiology and physiology of the endocrine system".

2) The second test (which can be taken the same day or later, within 24 months from the first) focuses mainly on the didactic module "Physiology of organs and systems".

The final mark is the arithmetic average of the marks obtained in the two tests.

Teaching tools

Power Point presentations; dedicated equipment and sofware for exercises.

Office hours

See the website of Giorgio Aicardi