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 Organ Transport Systems  posted by  duggu   on 11/21/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Schematic cutaway of human heart and torso.
Electrocardiography provides visibility into the heart's electrical activity, helping doctors diagnose a wide range of cardiac abnormalities. For example, a blockage in the right bundle branch of the intraventricular conduction system (inset) produces a particular set of characteristic ECG signals. (Figure by MIT OCW.)

Course Highlights

This course features a complete set of course notes that serve as the primary reading material available in the readings section.

Course Description

This course elaborates on the application of the principles of energy and mass flow to major human organ systems. It discusses mechanisms of regulation and homeostasis. It also discusses anatomical, physiological, and pathophysiological features of the cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal systems. There is emphasis on those systems, features, and devices that are most illuminated by the methods of physical sciences.



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As a supplement to material in the class notes, there is a required text for the course: Costanzo, Linda S. Physiology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 2002. ISBN: 0721695493. This is a basic reference for the material to be covered.

An alternative text is recommended for students desiring a more comprehensive reference: Berne, R. M., and M. N. Levy. Physiology. 5th ed. St. Louis: Mosby, 2003. ISBN: 0323022251.


There are three quizzes. Each quiz will count 15% of the final grade for the course.

Final Exam

There will be a final examination, which will count 35% of the course grade.

Home Problems

A total of 10 home problem sets will be assigned. Periodic home problem sets will be assigned. Problem sets will be posted on the web site; no hard copies will be handed out. Students are expected to do the problems and hand in their solutions, which will be reviewed and returned. Performance on homework will count 10% toward the final grade. Please hand in your best effort on time (before the answers are provided). But remember, there is an enormous difference between a partially successful attempt, and no attempt at all! You get a zero for no homework, but will get up to 50% of full credit even if late.

Laboratory Exercises

There are 6 laboratory exercises in the course, each lasting approximately 3 hours, except where noted. (Lab 3 consists of three individual sessions.) These include:

Lab 1: Anatomy of the Heart

Lab 2: Electrophysiology of the Frog Heart (write-up required)

Lab 3: Mammalian Circulation: (write-up required)

  • Orientation Discussion (Orientation discussion takes 3 hours)

  • Laboratory (Lab is a day-long activity)

  • Discussion of Results (Discussion of results takes 3 hours)

Lab 4: Pulmonary Modeling

Lab 5: Life-saving Cardiovascular Technology: Case Presentation

Lab 6: Graduate Student Symposium and Dinner

This course includes two animal labs (Labs 2 and 3). The first demonstrates cardiac electrophysiology and the second focuses on cardiovascular hemodynamics and control. These laboratory experiences are of great importance to the objectives of the course, and teach both complex physiology and also experimental technique. They cannot be replaced by textbooks or mathematical simulation. All students are expected to participate in these labs.

Laboratory Reports

Lab reports are required for laboratory exercises. We expect the lab reports to be written neatly and concisely. Each student submits a report, although a group may collaborate in data analysis. The standards by which we judge the lab reports are based upon:

  • Adequate, clear record of your experimental procedures. It is not necessary to repeat material already described in the hand-outs!

  • A brief but accurate description of your experimental results. Explain and show what you measured in lab, and make note of any problems, difficulties, or characteristics in the data that may be useful later in making interpretations (noisy signals, instabilities, etc.). Copies of actual data should be included whenever possible. You may make a (xerox) copy of the data (only) from your partner's notebook and include the copy in your notebook.

  • Succinct discussions of your results. Use the literature to help you interpret what you measured. Think hard about what happened, and then write the number of words necessary to convey your interpretation.

Please record the names of those you worked with in each experiment.

Reports are due not later than one week after your lab period (unless otherwise established by the staff), and should be handed in to the teaching assistant.

Late reports are unacceptable, except in emergency situations for which arrangements have been worked out in advance with the teaching assistant. In some experiments, the lab staff will want to look at your data before you leave the laboratory to be sure that you got something reasonable with which to work. Note: Lab reports are required in order to complete the course and are worth 10% of the final grade. Every year one or two students forget this point and end up getting "incompletes" for grades. Don't be one of them!


In summary, the final grade will be assessed on the following basis:

Homework 10%
Quiz #1 15%
Quiz #2 15%
Quiz #3 15%
Labs 10%
Final Exam 35%

Course Ethics

Homework Exercises

Homework Exercises are designed primarily to help you to learn. You may do them alone, or you may work with others. You may make use of all available reference material. If you work together with other student(s) you should formally recognize that fact in writing. For example, "This problem was solved jointly by myself and ______________." This policy is completely consistent with all scientific writing, and recognizes joint efforts. Note that collaboration on homework does not in any way detract from your own credit. On the other hand, undeclared collaboration is not ethical.

Laboratory Reports

Each student must submit his/her individual write-up. Data should be duplicated. Group discussions of results are encouraged. Your report should indicate the composition of your research group.


Lec 1 Introduction and Case Presentation  
Lec 2 Cardiovascular Physiology 1: Models of the Peripheral Circulation  
Lec 3 Cardiovascular Physiology 2: The Heart as a Pump Problem set 1 due
Lab 1 Anatomy of the Heart  
Lec 4 Cardiovascular Physiology 3: Modeling the Intact System  
Lec 5 Cardiovascular Physiology 4: Electrophysiology of Myocardial Cells Problem set 2 due
Lec 6 Cardiovascular Physiology 5: The Physical Basis of Electrocardiography  
Lab 2 Electrophysiology of the Frog Heart (write-up required)  
Lec 7 Cardiovascular Physiology 6: Clinical Electrocardiography and Arrhythmias Problem set 3 due
Lec 8 Cardiovascular Physiology 7: Control and Integration in the Cardiovascular System Quiz #1 (evening)
Lab 3 Mammalian Circulation: Orientation Discussion  
Lec 9 Cardiovascular Physiology 8: Control and Integration in the Cardiovascular System  
Lab 3 (cont.) Mammalian Circulation: Day-long laboratory  
Lec 10 Physiological Fluid Mechanics 1 Problem set 4 due
Lec 11 Physiological Fluid Mechanics 2  
Lab 3 (cont.) Mammalian Circulation: Day-long laboratory  
Lec 12 Physiological Fluid Mechanics 3 Problem set 5 due
Lab 3 (cont.) Mammalian Circulation: Discussion of Results  
Lec 13 Physiological Fluid Mechanics 4  
Lec 14 Physiological Fluid Mechanics 5  
Lec 15 Respiratory Physiology 1 Problem set 6 due
  Quiz #2 Quiz #2 (in class)
Lab 4 Pulmonary Modeling  
Lec 16 Respiratory Physiology 2 Problem set 7 due one day after Session 17
Lec 17 Respiratory Physiology 3  
Lec 18 Respiratory Physiology 4 Problem set 8 due
Lab 5 Life-saving Cardiovascular Technology: Case Presentation  
Lec 19 Respiratory Physiology 5 Problem set 9 due one day after Session 20
Lec 20 Renal Physiology 1  
Lec 21 Renal Physiology 2 Quiz #3 (evening)
Lec 22 Renal Physiology 3  
Lab 6 Graduate Student Symposium and Dinner  
Lec 23 Renal Physiology 4 Problem set 10 due
Lec 24 Case Study - Integration I  
Lec 25 Case Study - Integration II  
  Final Exam   Tell A Friend