Is there a nomenclature for human physiology?

Is there a nomenclature for human physiology?

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Back when I studied botany in high school, the teacher taught us the nomenclature for botanical terms. I think there should be something similar for human physiology. Understanding how the name was formed helps a lot while reading about the human body. Can you please point me to any resources (books or websites) on this topic?

Des Moines University has an overview of medical terminology, for example:

  • Useful prefixes and suffixes
  • Word roots for organs
  • Some general terms
  • System-specific terms, for example, for circulatory system

The Free Dictionary has a Medical Dictionary, which shows results from various dictionaries with basic etymology included.

Etymonline is a detailed, general etymological dictionary, which includes a lot of medical terms.

Physiology as such may not have a lot of specific terms, but it is helpful to know basic anatomical and pathological terms when reading physiological texts.

Schulic Medicine & Dentistry has an one page glossary of ~400 medical terms.

BC Campus has basic anatomical terms with pictures on one page.

The book I'm most familiar with is Medical Terminology: A Programmed Learning Approach to the Language of Health Care Second Edition by Marjorie Canfield Willis. This book is great for what you're looking for, and I believe you can get the 2nd edition pretty cheap from multiple vendors.


Physiology is the study of all the physical and chemical processes that take place in organisms in order for them to perform all the functions and activities associated with living. Physiology can be studied at the molecular level all the way up to the level of entire organisms, and includes everything in between like cells, tissues, organs, and body systems. It involves studying how the different parts of the body work, separately and together, to allow an organism to function properly.

What is Anatomy and Physiology?

Laypeople sometimes use the terms “anatomy” and “physiology” interchangeably. And it’s true that they both cover similar areas of science related to the human body. But these two complimentary biological sciences have slightly different definitions.

Anatomy refers to the study of the human body’s structure and function. It includes gross anatomy, the study of the tissues and organs that are visible to the naked eye (including cardiology, the study of the heart, and nephrology, the study of the kidneys). It also includes microscopic anatomy, the study of those structures that are too small to be seen (such as cytology, the study of cells and histology, the study of tissues)

Physiology is the study of living systems and their function within the human body generally. This includes the chemistry and physics of the structures of the body’s physical structures. Physiology centers largely on the study of how the body’s systems maintain homeostasis, a stable balance of conditions that indicate healthy functioning.

&crarrIn today's world it is important to understand the way the HIV virus leads to AIDS and how the virus is transmitted from person to person. This activity begins with a simple explanation of HIV and AIDS. The way that HIV infection reduces the number of antibodies is revealed using some short videos and a structured worksheet. There is also a video showing more detail of the transmission.

This page explores a use of affordable glucose test meters to estimate glucose concentrations in strawberries. These amazing gadgets use nanotubes lined with enzymes to turn glucose molecules into electrical signals. Designed to test the glucose concentration in tiny blood samples, they help many people in the management of type II diabetes. With a little care they work equally well as a tool to measure.

A dynamic nomenclature proposal for SARS-CoV-2 lineages to assist genomic epidemiology

The ongoing pandemic spread of a new human coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which is associated with severe pneumonia/disease (COVID-19), has resulted in the generation of tens of thousands of virus genome sequences. The rate of genome generation is unprecedented, yet there is currently no coherent nor accepted scheme for naming the expanding phylogenetic diversity of SARS-CoV-2. Here, we present a rational and dynamic virus nomenclature that uses a phylogenetic framework to identify those lineages that contribute most to active spread. Our system is made tractable by constraining the number and depth of hierarchical lineage labels and by flagging and delabelling virus lineages that become unobserved and hence are probably inactive. By focusing on active virus lineages and those spreading to new locations, this nomenclature will assist in tracking and understanding the patterns and determinants of the global spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests. The authors declare no competing interests.


Maximum likelihood phylogeny of globally…

Maximum likelihood phylogeny of globally sampled sequences of SARS-CoV-2 downloaded from the GISAID…

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Xia, J. Y. et al. Targeted induction of ceramide degradation leads to improved systemic metabolism and reduced hepatic steatosis. Cell Metab. 22, 266–278 (2015).

Chavez, J. A. et al. Ceramides and glucosylceramides are independent antagonists of insulin signaling. J. Biol. Chem. 289, 723–734 (2014).

Li, Z. et al. Reducing plasma membrane sphingomyelin increases insulin sensitivity. Mol. Cell. Biol. 31, 4205–4218 (2011).

Yano, M. et al. Increased oxidative stress impairs adipose tissue function in sphingomyelin synthase 1 null mice. PLoS ONE 8, e61380 (2013).

Taguchi, Y. et al. Sphingosine-1-phosphate phosphatase 2 regulates pancreatic islet β-cell endoplasmic reticulum stress and proliferation. J. Biol. Chem. 291, 12029–12038 (2016).

Chen, J. et al. Deletion of sphingosine kinase 1 ameliorates hepatic steatosis in diet-induced obese mice: role of PPARγ. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1861, 138–147 (2016).

Park, K. et al. ER stress stimulates production of the key antimicrobial peptide, cathelicidin, by forming a previously unidentified intracellular S1P signaling complex. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, E1334–E1342 (2016).

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Fan, J., Wu, B. X. & Crosson, C. E. Suppression of acid sphingomyelinase protects the retina from ischemic injury. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 57, 4476–4484 (2016).

Reforgiato, M. R. et al. Inhibition of ceramide de novo synthesis as a postischemic strategy to reduce myocardial reperfusion injury. Basic Res. Cardiol. 111, 12 (2016).

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Havulinna, A. S. et al. Circulating ceramides predict cardiovascular outcomes in the population-based FINRISK 2002 cohort. Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 36, 2424–2430 (2016).

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Spassieva, S. D. et al. Ectopic expression of ceramide synthase 2 in neurons suppresses neurodegeneration induced by ceramide synthase 1 deficiency. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, 5928–5933 (2016). This study, by using genetic interactions between Cers1 and Cers2 , demonstrates that sphingosine is likely the key lipid species responsible for mediating neurodegeneration in the Cers1 -knockout mouse.

Dinkins, M. B. et al. Neutral sphingomyelinase-2 deficiency ameliorates Alzheimer's disease pathology and improves cognition in the 5XFAD mouse. J. Neurosci. 36, 8653–8667 (2016).

Novgorodov, S. A. et al. Essential roles of neutral ceramidase and sphingosine in mitochondrial dysfunction due to traumatic brain injury. J. Biol. Chem. 289, 13142–13154 (2014).

Jennemann, R. et al. Loss of ceramide synthase 3 causes lethal skin barrier disruption. Hum. Mol. Genet. 21, 586–608 (2012).

Behne, M. et al. Omega-hydroxyceramides are required for corneocyte lipid envelope (CLE) formation and normal epidermal permeability barrier function. J. Invest. Dermatol. 114, 185–192 (2000).

Jennemann, R. et al. Integrity and barrier function of the epidermis critically depend on glucosylceramide synthesis. J. Biol. Chem. 282, 3083–3094 (2007).

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Peters, F. et al. Ceramide synthase 4 regulates stem cell homeostasis and hair follicle cycling. J. Invest. Dermatol. 135, 1501–1509 (2015).

Liakath-Ali, K. et al. Alkaline ceramidase 1 is essential for mammalian skin homeostasis and regulating whole-body energy expenditure. J. Pathol. 239, 374–383 (2016).

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Kakoi, H. et al. Bone morphogenic protein (BMP) signaling up-regulates neutral sphingomyelinase 2 to suppress chondrocyte maturation via the Akt protein signaling pathway as a negative feedback mechanism. J. Biol. Chem. 289, 8135–8150 (2014).

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McNaughton, M., Pitman, M., Pitson, S. M., Pyne, N. J. & Pyne, S. Proteasomal degradation of sphingosine kinase 1 and inhibition of dihydroceramide desaturase by the sphingosine kinase inhibitors, SKi or ABC294640, induces growth arrest in androgen-independent LNCaP-AI prostate cancer cells. Oncotarget 7, 16663–16675 (2016).

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Other Information

Assessment will be based on (percentages indicative only, may change):

  • Lab quizzes and/or short essays (15% LO 1)
  • Extended lab report and oral presentation (25% LO 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  • Mid-term and final examinations (60% LO 1, 2)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Tissues, Organs, Organ Systems, and Organisms

Unicellular (single-celled) organisms can function independently, but the cells of multicellular organisms are dependent upon each other and are organized into five different levels in order to coordinate their specific functions and carry out all of life&rsquos biological processes (Figure (PageIndex<2>)).

  • Cells are the basic structural and functional unit of all life. Examples include red blood cells and nerve cells. There are hundreds of types of cells. All cells in a person contain the same genetic information in DNA. However, each cell only expresses the genetic codes that relate to the cell&rsquos specific structure and function.
  • Tissues are groups of cells that share a common structure and function and work together. There are four basic types of human tissues: connective, which connects tissues epithelial, which lines and protects organs muscle, which contracts for movement and support and nerve, which responds and reacts to signals in the environment.
  • Organs are a group of tissues arranged in a specific manner to support a common physiological function. Examples include the brain, liver, and heart.
  • Organ systems are two or more organs that support a specific physiological function. Examples include the digestive system and central nervous system. There are eleven organ systems in the human body (Table (PageIndex<1>)).
  • An organism is the complete living system capable of conducting all of life&rsquos biological processes.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Human Biology and the Scientific Method
  • Chapter 2: Chemistry and Life
  • Chapter 3: Cells
  • Chapter 4: DNA and Gene Expression
  • Chapter 5: Digestive System
  • Chapter 6: Energy Considerations
  • Chapter 7: Blood
  • Chapter 8: Heart
  • Chapter 9: Blood Vessels
  • Chapter 10: Respiratory System
  • Chapter 11: Hormones
  • Chapter 12: Urinary System
  • Chapter 13: Mitosis and Meiosis
  • Chapter 14: Reproductive Systems
  • Chapter 15: Skeletal System
  • Chapter 16: Muscles and Movement
  • Chapter 17: Nervous System
  • Chapter 18: Special Senses
  • Chapter 19: Immune System


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