Yosuke Hirakawa
The University of Tokyo Hospital

It is now common knowledge that urine is produced by glomerular filtrate and tubular reabsorption of substances such as electrolytes and glucose. This phenomenon was initially understood by Alfred Newton Richards and his colleagues in the 1920s. At that time, many researchers had tried to observe glomerular circulation but did not have the capacity or methods to do so. Richards was the pioneer who decided to observe frog kidneys, which are thin and flat.(1). He investigated the effect of adrenaline on glomerular circulation with a micropipette introduced into glomerular space with the help of a micromanipulator. In the process, he obtained enough glomerular fluid for quantitative tests. He found that glomerular filtrate contained both chloride and sugar, detectable in blood but undetectable in bladder urine, leading to the conclusion that there must be 2 different processes: glomerular filtration and tubular reabsorption respectively. This description is thought to be one of the most important contributions in our understanding of renal physiology (2) on which subsequent understandings of glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and solute transport have been built. Richards’ achievements are widely known and the ISN ensures that his outstanding and fundamental contribution to basic research is honored through the Alfred Newton Richards Award for basic science.


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      Sands JM. Micropuncture: unlocking the secrets of renal function. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2004; 287:F866-7.

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