College of Veterinary Medicine


VCM 513 - Science of Health Homeostasis

Contact Information

Instructor: Dr. Brian Aldridge
Phone: 217-333-0418
Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:00-2:00 PM CST

Course Description

This is an 8-week graduate level course designed to help participants begin to develop an integrated, science-based approach to health problems by helping them understand how each organ system contributes to whole body homeostasis.  In this course, students will be introduced to the concept that life is difficult - that individual animals and populations are continually exposed to internal and external hardships and to specific health challenges. In order to live healthy and productive lives, animals must resist and/or adapt to a wide range of health ordeals and difficulties.  This ability or capacity of an individual to adapt to change and challenge is termed homeostasis, and is a key concept in the design and implementation of health management strategies.

The learning activities will train students to use a systems-based approach to explain how each organ system detects and responds to particular health challenges. Students will be asked to apply their knowledge of structure and function of the major body systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, renal, immune, nervous, metabolic and reproductive, etc.) and to explore the cellular mechanisms and molecular pathways by which the body detects, communicates, regulates and corrects pathophysiologic perturbations.  Each sphere of host health homeostasis will be studied through a series of short video lectures, required readings and reference materials. Students will be encouraged to develop a deeper understanding of the course content by solving clinical case examples, participating in group activities and by contributing to weekly discussion boards.  Weekly quizzes,  discussion boards, exams, and one final exam will be assessed for a final grade in the class.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Use a systems-based approach to describe host homeostatic responses to specific health challenges

  • Compare and contrast the associations between normal physiology and pathophysiology in altered health states.

  • Understand the pathophysiological basis for disease manifestation and progress in the body, and in primary and secondary organ systems.

  • Characterize the basic concepts of homeostasis and pathophysiology at the cellular and molecular level related to fluid/electrolyte, respiratory, nutrient, mucosal, and reproductive health, and for behavior and movement.

Course Topics

  • Module 1
    • Applying a systems-based approach to describe host homeostasis
    • Regulation of host health status
      1. Physiological monitoring systems
      2. Molecular pathways and intercellular communication
      3. Regulatory and effector pathways (e.g. positive and negative feedback)  
    • Homeostasis during different life cycle stages
      1. Biological life cycle
      2. Production life cycle
        • breeding
        • pregnancy and birth
        • newborn - adaptation to the new environment
        • lactation
        • growth and development
    • Fluid, electrolyte and acid-base homeostasis
      1. overview of fluid homeostasis (cellular and molecular pathways)
      2. monitoring fluid, electrolyte and acid-base status
      3. regulating fluid, electrolyte and acid-base status
      4. response to changes in fluid, electrolyte and acid-base status
    • Respiratory homeostasis
      1. overview of gas homeostasis (cellular and molecular pathways)
      2. monitoring blood and tissue O2/CO2 status
      3. regulating blood and tissue O2/CO2 status
      4. responses to changes in blood and tissue O2/CO2 status
    • Metabolic/nutrient homeostasis
      1. overview of metabolic/nutrient (energy, protein, vitamin, mineral) homeostasis (cellular and molecular pathways)
      2. monitoring nutrient status (neuroendocrinological pathways)
      3. regulating nutrient status (appetite, metabolism)
      4. responses to changes in nutrient status (neuroendocrinological pathways, growth and development)
    • Mucosal homeostasis
      1. overview of mucosal homeostasis (epithelium, microbiome, mucosal immunity)
        • GI tract
        • respiratory tract
        • reproductive tract
        • skin
      2. monitoring mucosal health
      3. regulating mucosal health
      4. responses to changes in mucosal health
    • Reproductive homeostasis
      1. overview of reproductive health
      2. monitoring reproductive health
      3. regulating reproductive health
      4. responses to reproductive health challenges
    • Importance of movement and behavior to host homeostasis
      1. overview of behavior
        • brain and behavior
        • environment and behavior
        • regulation of behavior
        • behavioral responses to health challenges
      2. overview of movement
        • sensory and motor pathways
        • regulation of movement
        • changes in movement in health and disease (e.g sickness behavior)
  • Module 2
    • Problems with fluid, electrolyte and acid-base homeostasis
      1. categories of renal and circulatory health challenges (e.g. dehydration, shock)
      2. pathophysiologic responses to renal and circulatory health challenges
    • Problems with respiration and gas transport homeostasis
      1. categories of respiratory and gas transport health challenges (e.g. bronchopneumonia, anemia)
      2. pathophysiologic responses to respiratory and gas transport challenges (e.g. respiratory disease, anemia)
    • Problems with metabolic/nutrient homeostasis (e.g. ketosis, hypocalcemia, impaired growth)
      1. categories of metabolic/nutrient health challenges (e.g. dehydration, shock)
      2. pathophysiologic responses to metabolic health challenges (e.g. growth and development disruption, endocrine disorders)
    • Problems with mucosal homeostasis
      1. categories of mucosal health challenge (e.g. infection, inflammation, ulceration, neoplasia)
      2. pathophysiologic responses to mucosal health challenges (e.g. cough, diarrhea)
    • Problems with reproductive homeostasis
      1. categories of reproductive health challenge (e.g. infection, neoplasia)
      2. pathophysiologic responses to mucosal health challenges (e.g. inflammation, abortion, infertility)
    • Problems with movement and behavior
      1. categories of movement and behavior disorders (e.g. trauma, infection, neoplasia)
      2. pathophysiologic responses of the CNS and musculoskeletal systems to health challenges (e.g. inflammation)

Mode of Teaching

This course is fully online using Canvas ( The content will be presented as text, videos, and other media. The course covers the same amount of material that would be expected if the class were a traditional campus-based course. Due to the nature of online learning, students must be diligent about their learning, engaging often and actively.

We use a software solution called ZOOM for online meetings. Students may join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android or call by telephone. The meeting link or telephone number will be provided after the meeting is scheduled (International numbers available at this link to join a meeting. A webcam is preferred for easier communication.

Course Requirements

Required Textbooks

  • There is no required textbook. Reading assignments will come from journal articles, international organization standards and guidelines (e.g., World Organization for Animal Health, World Health Organization), University of Illinois Library access e-books, and technical documents.

Technical Requirements

  • Knowledge of and operation of a computer is the students’ personal responsibility. Make sure to do a system check at Compass 2g Browser Check (login required). You will need: 
    • A Reliable Device. 
    • High-Speed Internet Connection: e.g. DSL or Cable.
    • Supported Web Browser: e.g. a recent version of Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. 
    • Access Microsoft Office 365 (Net ID and password needed) & have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed.
    • Minimum Technical Skills: At a minimum, students must possess the ability to navigate Canvas. This includes accessing course content, posting to a discussion board, and completing online assignments, quizzes, self-assessments, and exams.
    • More information on the hardware and software requirements can be found at