Perfusion of isolated tubules

Nikolay Bulanov
Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University

Investigation of renal physiology is impossible without studying the function of different parts of the nephron. The first experiments on isolated tubules were described in 1924 by Wearn et al. who performed renal tubule micropuncture in vivo (1). However, this technique was complicated and only able to assess surface tubule segments. In the 1950s, Maurice B. Burg began to consider the possibility of perfusing single renal tubules in vitro. After several years of hard work in the Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism, Burg et al. published a paper describing the dissection of different tubule segments in single rabbit nephrons and their electrolyte and water composition (2). They demonstrated that proximal tubules maintained transcellular gradients for sodium, potassium, and chloride ions. To assess transcellular transport, the authors measured the volume and composition of the effluent perfusion fluid. Decades later, Maurice Burg recalled that this experiment required considerable time, collaboration, and effort, including the development of special concentric perfusing micropipettes, and the application of a wide range of microdissection and analytical techniques (3). This study contributed to a better understanding of cellular structure and function of both normal and diseased kidneys.


  1. Wearn JT, Richards AN. Observations on the composition of glomerular urine with particular reference to the problem of reabsorption in the renal tubules. Am J Physiol. 1924; 71:209–227.
  2. Burg M, Grantham J, Abramow M, Orloff J. Preparation and study of fragments of single rabbit nephrons. Am J Physiol. 1966; 210:1293–1298.
  3. Burg M. Introduction: Background and development of microperfusion technique. Kidney Int. 1982; 22:417–424.

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