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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the anatomy of erythrocytes
  • Discuss the various steps in the lifecycle of an erythrocyte
  • Explain the composition and function of hemoglobin

The erythrocyte    , commonly known as a red blood cell (or RBC), is by far the most common formed element: A single drop of blood contains millions of erythrocytes and just thousands of leukocytes. Specifically, males have about 5.4 million erythrocytes per microliter ( µ L) of blood, and females have approximately 4.8 million per µ L. In fact, erythrocytes are estimated to make up about 25 percent of the total cells in the body. As you can imagine, they are quite small cells, with a mean diameter of only about 7–8 micrometers ( µ m) ( [link] ). The primary functions of erythrocytes are to pick up inhaled oxygen from the lungs and transport it to the body’s tissues, and to pick up some (about 24 percent) carbon dioxide waste at the tissues and transport it to the lungs for exhalation. Erythrocytes remain within the vascular network. Although leukocytes typically leave the blood vessels to perform their defensive functions, movement of erythrocytes from the blood vessels is abnormal.

Summary of formed elements in blood

This table shows the different types of cells present in blood, the number of cells, their appearance, and a summary of their function.

Shape and structure of erythrocytes

As an erythrocyte matures in the red bone marrow, it extrudes its nucleus and most of its other organelles. During the first day or two that it is in the circulation, an immature erythrocyte, known as a reticulocyte    , will still typically contain remnants of organelles. Reticulocytes should comprise approximately 1–2 percent of the erythrocyte count and provide a rough estimate of the rate of RBC production, with abnormally low or high rates indicating deviations in the production of these cells. These remnants, primarily of networks (reticulum) of ribosomes, are quickly shed, however, and mature, circulating erythrocytes have few internal cellular structural components. Lacking mitochondria, for example, they rely on anaerobic respiration. This means that they do not utilize any of the oxygen they are transporting, so they can deliver it all to the tissues. They also lack endoplasmic reticula and do not synthesize proteins. Erythrocytes do, however, contain some structural proteins that help the blood cells maintain their unique structure and enable them to change their shape to squeeze through capillaries. This includes the protein spectrin, a cytoskeletal protein element.

Erythrocytes are biconcave disks; that is, they are plump at their periphery and very thin in the center ( [link] ). Since they lack most organelles, there is more interior space for the presence of the hemoglobin molecules that, as you will see shortly, transport gases. The biconcave shape also provides a greater surface area across which gas exchange can occur, relative to its volume; a sphere of a similar diameter would have a lower surface area-to-volume ratio. In the capillaries, the oxygen carried by the erythrocytes can diffuse into the plasma and then through the capillary walls to reach the cells, whereas some of the carbon dioxide produced by the cells as a waste product diffuses into the capillaries to be picked up by the erythrocytes. Capillary beds are extremely narrow, slowing the passage of the erythrocytes and providing an extended opportunity for gas exchange to occur. However, the space within capillaries can be so minute that, despite their own small size, erythrocytes may have to fold in on themselves if they are to make their way through. Fortunately, their structural proteins like spectrin are flexible, allowing them to bend over themselves to a surprising degree, then spring back again when they enter a wider vessel. In wider vessels, erythrocytes may stack up much like a roll of coins, forming a rouleaux, from the French word for “roll.”

Questions & Answers

master gland Kon si h
kajal Reply
Pituitary gland
KUNDAN
pituitary gland because it give harmonies and control other gland
ABDULLAH
glands often secrete hormones which play an important role in maintaining homeostasis.
KUNDAN
pituitary gland
Aftab
pituitary gland is master gland because it present in biran and secrtehormones and play other gland of human body and function its gland so that also called master gland.
ABDULLAH
pituitary glandis the master gland of our body
Nadeem
how do you study for A&P? lab and lecture?
Aubrey Reply
When one is suffering from motion sickness what area of the brain may trigger emesis?
amy Reply
that is the sign of stroke. if the patient have a stroke. the left side of body is weakness, the affected right of cerebrum but if right side of the body is weakness surely in left side!
Larry
thank you sooo much bro
Fatima Reply
helloo
Sentamu
Fatima hw a u
Sentamu
hii
Shubham
any one elaborate fr me foramens of the skull and features which they transmit
Sentamu
icant undrestand plz
zahruuzh Reply
try to read I hop you will understand
state and explain 20 radiology uses
ILYAS Reply
what are chemicals in anatomy and physiology?
Mike Reply
what can I do to find it easy for me in anatomy and physiology course
Mike
study up on the basics of the periodic chart, learn bones and muscles attachments, and learn muscles. Those take the longest to memorize. After that it should be a little easier.
Toni
what are the two types of body cells
Jennifer Reply
what is malnutrition
Claire
malnutrition refers to faulty nutrition resulting from malabsorption,poor diet or overeating. Sometimes too these food do not contain all the six food nutrients in their right proportion.
Yakubu
thank you
Claire
welcome
Yakubu
Will u be malnourished?
Baigwa
gud
Budumari
What's the difference between radiology and radiology
gabriel
Nothing! Radiology it means the study or using of radiation in medical science it can be 1.diagnose or treatment diagnosed radiology! x- ray. ultrasound. ct-scan. mammogram. MRI. 2. treatmen- radiation oncology, like Cobalt 60. and nuclear medicine
Larry
what is X-ray?
Nissar
X-ray is type of light that make it possible to see inside any object. as human body
KUNDAN
How the nervous system develops
ayiesher Reply
From the cells at the back of an embryo
Mma
breifly explain anatomy of thorax
Hadiza Reply
How many region the rib is divided
Konneh
how many bon of human being
Nura
206
John
how to study for the skeletal system
ryaisha
and anatomy
ryaisha
I really need sources immediately
ryaisha
I printed out all the different bones. Put them in the see through protective sheaths and got dry erase markers. I could right on them and erase to help me learn to spell the names of markings and bones.
Toni
Or go to a book store, Barnes and Noble(doesn't have to be this) and they have coloring books for anatomy. $16. Really helpful.
Toni
okay thanks and are what study tools you use to study the materials and get a better understanding
ryaisha
*what are
ryaisha
hiii
Roopa
I prefer diagrams, pictures that lay out each step with the information in each step. For Example: how action potential creates muscles to move. A pictured diagram gives me a better understanding of how each piece plays a role in each step of the process.
Toni
Also for basics, such as memorizing vocab. Flash cards are great. Don't become discouraged if you don't get them all right the first times through. The more you go through them, your brain will remember pieces of information from each and help you to pull out the information 😉
Toni
okay thanks
ryaisha
what is the functions of the lips in human
Momboi Reply
could I say sensation?
Sovilace
kissing
Obrian
for protection
Omar
Lips assist in speech and eating
Cindy
Too many easy questions. Which bones are the axial and appendicular? What are the abbreviations for TEE, TTE, AED, A-Mode, B-Mode, and LTH? What is the difference between hypothalamus and thalamus? Where is the parathyroid located? How many True Ribs do we have?
Sovilace Reply
Transesophageal echocardiography Transthoracic Echocardiography automated external defibrillator brightnees mode Los Hermanos Taverna
Inam
what is anatomy
okello Reply
anatomy is scientific study of body structures and how they relate to each other
Skeater
Are there other functions of the nucleolus apart from synthesis of RNA and formation of ribosomes
Peninah Reply
plays a role in cell response to stress
airiz
what is angle of auscultation
Bryan Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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