Henle's Water Music
by Greg Crowther
This is a two-part song originally written for Biology 352 at UW-Bothell and revised for use at Everett Community College and the University of New Hampshire. After the initial fanfare, the song hints at the mechanism by which water is conserved in mammalian kidneys. In brief, the nephron's loop of Henle maintains an osmolarity gradient such that, when pre-urine travels down the collecting duct, water is drawn out of the collecting duct into the interstitial fluid and reabsorbed by the blood.
All hail the kidneys:
The blood-cleaning kidneys!
The water-saving kidneys!
The urine-making kidneys!
From the glomeruli to the collecting ducts,
They turn the flow from red to gold!
I've got to pee so bad,
And I'm wondering, "Why is that?"
I suspect three sites
Could be where the problem's at.
Is my hypothalamus off?
Or have my aquaporins all died?
Or should I try
Taking less furosemide?
• MP3 (demo; with David Newman)
• music video
• sheet music (with melody play-back)
Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.
An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity could begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.
(1) The kidneys are described as "blood-cleaning," "water-saving," and "urine-making." Are these distinct processes, or are they all basically the same thing? Explain.
(2) What are glomeruli and collecting ducts? Why are they mentioned together?
(3) The lyrics mention a red-to-gold transition. What is the significance of these colors?
(4) How could a hypothalamus malfunction lead to excessive urination? (There is more than one correct answer!)
(5) How could defective aquaporins lead to excessive urination?
(6) How does furosemide, a diuretic drug, increase urination?
(7) The narrator offers three possible reasons for his excessive urination. Which seems most likely?
(Answers may be found on the answers page.)