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What are the principals of hypotonic biology?

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Quick Answer

Tonicity is the osmotic pressure gradient of two solutions separated by a semi-permeable membrane. A hypotonic solution contains less solute but more water than another solution. Pure water is hypotonic compared to any solution because it does not contain any solute.

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Full Answer

The root of the term hypotonic, "hypo," means "below." A hypotonic environment has a lower concentration of solute than the cells in the environment, and water travels by osmosis from that environment into the cells to balance the solute concentration. When the water enters a cell, the cell begins to expand. Water always moves toward a higher concentration of solute or a lower concentration of water.

It follows that these comparisons are very important in the medical field. If, for instance, a hypotonic solution is injected into a patient in which the concentration of salt is lower than the concentration of blood, the cells in contact with that solution may swell or possibly rupture. On the other hand, a solution with a higher concentration of salt than blood, called a hypertonic solution, is injected into a patient, the cells shrink. The third type of solution, an isotonic solution, does not cause swelling or shrinkage because isotonic solutions exert osmotic pressure equal to that of the blood itself.

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