by HCO3-, which is then converted into dissolved CO2, decreasing the ratio of HCO3- to CO2 and decreasing the pH of the extracellular fluid.
"Buffer Power" Is Determined by the Amount and Relative Concentrations of the Buffer Components. From the titration curve in Figure 30-1, several points are apparent. First, the pH of the system is the same as the pK when each of the components (HCO3- and CO2) constitutes 50 per cent of the total concentration of the buffer system. Second, the buffer system is most effective in the central part of the curve, where the pH is near the pK of the system. This means that the change in pH for any given amount of acid or base added to the system is least when the pH is near the pK of the system. The buffer system is still reasonably effective for 1.0 pH unit on either side of the pK, which for the bicarbonate buffer system extends from a pH of about 5.1 to 7.1 units. Beyond these limits, the buffering power rapidly diminishes. And when all the CO2 has been converted into HCO3-or when all the HCO3- has been converted into CO2, the system has no more buffering power.
The absolute concentration of the buffers is also an important factor in determining the buffer power of a system. With low concentrations of the buffers, only a small amount of acid or base added to the solution changes the pH considerably.
Bicarbonate Buffer System Is the Most Important Extracellular Buffer. From the titration curve shown in Figure 30-1, one would not expect the bicarbonate buffer system to be powerful, for two reasons: First, the pH of the extracellular fluid is about 7.4, whereas the pK of the bicarbonate buffer system is 6.1. This means that there is about 20 times as much of the bicarbonate buffer system in the form of HCO3- as in the form of dissolved CO2. For this reason, this system operates on the portion of the buffering curve where the slope is low and the buffering power is poor. Second, the concentrations of the two elements of the bicarbonate system, CO2 and HCO3-, are not great.
Despite these characteristics, the bicarbonate buffer system is the most powerful extracellular buffer in the body. This apparent paradox is due mainly to the fact that the two elements of the buffer system, HCO3- and CO2, are regulated, respectively, by the kidneys and the lungs, as discussed later. As a result of this regulation, the pH of the extracellular fluid can be precisely controlled by the relative rate of removal and addition of HCO3- by the kidneys and the rate of removal of CO2 by the lungs.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.