FACTS ABOUTRED BLOOD CELLS
HISTORYThe first person to describe red blood cells was the young Dutch biologist Jan Swammerdam, who had used an early microscope in 1658 to study the blood of a frog. Unaware of this work, Anton van Leeuwenhoek provided another microscopic description in 1674, this time providing a more precise description of red blood cells, even approximating their size, "25,000 times smaller than a fine grain of sand".
In 1901, Karl Landsteiner published his discovery of the three main blood groupsA, B, and C (which he later renamed to O). Landsteiner described the regular patterns in which reactions occurred when serum was mixed with red blood cells, thus identifying compatible and conflicting combinations between these blood groups. A year later Alfred von Decastello and Adriano Sturli, two colleagues of Landsteiner, identified a fourth blood groupAB.
Functional LifetimeThe functional lifetime of an erythrocyte is about 100120 days, during which time the erythrocytes are continually moved by the blood flow push (in arteries), pull (in veins) and a combination of the two as they squeeze through microvessels such as capillaries.
Red blood cells have the important job of carrying oxygen around the body.
Blood makes up around 7% of the weight of a human body.
Blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Blood plasma is made up of 90% water and also contains various nutrients, electrolytes, gases, proteins, glucose and hormones.
Blood plasma can be separated from the cells by spinning blood in a device known as a centrifuge until the cells collect at the bottom of the tube.
Red blood cells develop in bone marrow and circulate in the body for around 120 days.
Platelets help blood clot in order to limit bleeding when your skin is cut. Blood clots can occasionally have negative effects, if they form in blood vessels going to the brain they can cause a stroke while clotting in a blood vessel going to the heart can lead to a heart attack
As well as delivering important substances to our cells, blood also helps take away unwanted waste products.
Foods rich in iron help you maintain healthy red blood cells. Vitamins are also necessary to build healthy red blood cells. These include vitamin E, found in foods such as dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds, mango, and avocados; vitamins B2, B12, and B3, found in foods such as eggs, whole grains, and bananas; and folate, available in fortified cereals, dried beans and lentils, orange juice, and green leafy vegetables.
Illnesses of the red blood cells
Most people don't think about their red blood cells unless they have a disease that affects these cells. Problems with red blood cells can be caused by illnesses or a lack of iron or vitamins in your diet. Some diseases of the red blood cells are inherited.
Diseases of the red blood cells include many types of Anemia, a condition in which your body can't produce enough normal red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen throughout the body. People with anemia may have red blood cells that have an unusual shape or that look normal, larger than normal, or smaller than normal.
The human body needs iron to help perform a number of important functions. Iron helps carry oxygen to parts of your body in the form of hemoglobin. Not having enough can lead to iron deficiency and symptoms such as weakness and fatigue.
Blood Disorders Affecting Red Blood Cells
Anemia : People with anemia have a low number of red blood cells. Mild anemia often causes no symptoms. More severe anemia can cause fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath with exertion.
Iron-deficiency anemia: Iron is necessary for the body to make red blood cells. Low iron intake and loss of blood due to menstruation are the most common causes of iron-deficiency anemia. Treatment includes iron pills, or rarely, blood transfusion.
Anemia of chronic disease: People with chronic kidney disease or other chronic diseases tend to develop anemia. Anemia of chronic disease does not usually require treatment. Injections of a synthetic hormone (Epogen, Procrit) to stimulate the production of blood cells or blood transfusions may be necessary in some people with this form of anemia.
Pernicious anemia (B12deficiency): An autoimmune condition that prevents the body from absorbing enough B12 in the diet. Besides anemia, nerve damage (neuropathy) can eventually result. High doses of B12 prevent long-term problems.
Aplastic anemia: In people with aplastic anemia, the bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells, including red blood cells. A viral infection, drug side effect, or an autoimmune condition can cause aplastic anemia. Blood transfusions, and even a bone marrow transplant, may be required to treat aplastic anemia
Sickle cell anemia: A genetic condition that affects mostly African-Americans. Periodically, red blood cells change shape, and block blood flow. Severe pain and organ damage can occur.
Polycythemia vera : The body produces too many blood cells, from an unknown cause. The excess red blood cells usually create no problems but may cause blood clots in some people.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia: In people with this condition, an overactive immune system destroys the body's own red blood cells, causing anemia. Medicines that suppress the immune system, such as prednisone, may be required to stop the process.
Thalassemia: This is a genetic form of anemia that mostly affects people of Mediterranean heritage. Most people have no symptoms and require no treatment. Others may need regular blood transfusions to relieve anemia symptoms.
Malaria: A mosquito's bite transmits a parasite into a person's blood, where it infects red blood cells. Periodically, the red blood cells rupture, causing fever, chills, and organ damage. This blood infection is most common in Africa; those traveling to Africa are at risk and should take preventive measures. Malaria was eradicated from the U.S. in the 1940s.