Blood-Chemistry Tutorials

This set of four tutorials deals with chemical processes in the blood. These tutorials provide an integrated biological context for a variety of chemical concepts including metal complexes, spectroscopy, polarity, molecular size, diffusion, and equilibrium. The tutorials in this set are

The blood-chemistry tutorials build upon one another to help students develop an understanding of the physiological processes, as well as the chemical processes, that occur in the blood during the body's daily activities. The first three tutorials (Hemoglobin, Ferritin, and Dialysis) describe the daily maintenance required in the blood for normal everyday activities such as eating, sleeping, and studying. The last tutorial (Buffers) integrates the chemical and physiological concepts of all four tutorials to explain how the body copes with the stress of exercise. By studying these tutorials, students begin to see that the body has developed finely tuned chemical processes that work in combination to maintain the metabolic status of the blood during normal activities, and to handle the changes in the blood that exercise produces.

At Washington University in St. Louis, two of these tutorials are completed in the first semester of General Chemistry, and two are completed in the second semester of General Chemistry. The first tutorial, “Hemoglobin and the Heme Group: Metal Complexes in the Blood”, describes the role of a metal complex in transporting oxygen in the blood. Next, “Iron Use and Storage in the Body: Ferritin and Molecular Representations” describes ferritin, the protein in the blood and liver that stores iron and controls the amount of iron available to the body. The first tutorial of the second semester, “Maintaining the Body's Chemistry: Dialysis in the Kidneys”, describes how the kidneys use semipermeable membranes and diffusion across concentration gradients to filter the blood. The final tutorial of the set “Blood, Sweat, and Buffers: pH Regulation During Exercise” describes the acid-base equilibria and the pH buffers in the blood. This last tutorial also ties together the story of chemistry in the blood, which the students have been learning about through the other blood-chemistry tutorials.