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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

Me phone no petandi meku doubt vunte nenu phone chesi cheputhanu
Mohan Reply
What is respiratory disease
Rita Reply
What are the importance of homeostasis in human body?
Pablo Reply
homeostasis
Abena
it help to keep our salt and water balance
Husna
Homeostasis regulates and mentain internal equilibrium (ie temperature and pH) of the body.
Edmund
maintain temp and ph so our enzyme works properly
Husna
The inability of the body regulating and maintaining the temp. and pH results in disease affection.
Edmund
formation of the bone
Ali Reply
.
mohamed
عاوز ايه يعني من الفورمايشن
Doctor
notes on cell theory and discovery
Masika Reply
Cell theory are a set of rules for overall knowledge on cells. The most famous set of rules include: All cells arise from other cells. The cell is the functional unit of life. The structure (organelles) and morphology of the cell indicates it's main functions.
Carmelo
Antonie Van L. was the first to actually observe alive microorganisms (such as protist and bacteria) in a microscope in the 1600s.
Carmelo
electro phisiology meand
aparna Reply
rouleaux formation factors
Hridya Reply
can anyone suggest me how to learn forearm and hand topic of anatomy?
Anjali Reply
can anyone suggest me how to learn forearm and hand anatomy topic?
Anjali
can anyone suggest me how to learn forearm and hand topic of anatomy? pls pls tell
Anjali
check out youtube videos for trickss and while learning the boness part keep the bone wid u and learn ..... hope it helps u
Subuhi
ohk
Anjali
formation of the bone
Ali
what is the space between d dura mater and pia mater
Uwakwe Reply
Subdural space
Juveriya
Actually sub dural space is space between dura and arachnoid mater And sub arachnoid space is space between arachnoid and pia mater
Juveriya
the smallest bone in the body
Bahja Reply
stapes is the smallest bone in human Body
dipayan
Yeah
Ridwan
what is cell membrane
Hajara
cell membrane is like a protective cover of a cell and it's cytoplasm
dipayan
thanks
Hajara
list two adpitive mechanism that control homeostasis condition
Hajara
positive and negative feedback Mechanism
dipayan
@Dipayan, a cell membrane encloses and surrounds the cytoplasm of the cell. It's structure varies between species of life (eukaryotes, archaea, bacteria), but it is mostly composed of phospholipid, arachidonic acid, proteins, glycoproteins, glycolipids, and cholesterol.
Carmelo
and the glycoprotein and polysaccharides of the cell membrane forms the glycocalyx which has several functions especially in a bacteria.
Norom
can we stain sputum samples?
Apai Reply
Yes
Dorcas
wat do we use in staining them?
Apai
gram stain
Mawuli
Hello
bona
zeel Nelson stain
bona
why the ganglion cyst bumps?
dipayan Reply
i think fats gather under the skin
Matthew
but there were some tissue is present
dipayan
plz Matthew clearly present your answer
dipayan
appilied physiology of umn and lmn lesion
Ananthan Reply
what is umn and imn
dipayan
I don't know
bona
saaa
Patricia
Upper motor neurons (UMN) are responsible for conveying impulses for voluntary motor activity through descending motor pathways that make up the upper motor neurons. UMN send fibers to the LMN, and that exert direct or indirect supranuclear control over the LMN of the cranial and spinal nerves.
Amit
What is your doubt
Mohan
Anatomy of functions of the skeletal system
Tobokwa Reply
The processes of intracellular and extracellular transport
Daniel Reply
The processes involved in extracellular and intracellular communication
Daniel
Cell signaling can occur outside the cell by the binding of a ligand (polar molecule/ ions) to a receptor specific to the ligand embedded in the plasma membrane of the cell. Cell signaling can also occur inside the cell by the binding of a ligand (nonpolar molecule) to a receptor inside the cytosol
Carmelo
Receptors will always show specificity for specific types of ligands. For ex, insulin hormone will only bind to insulin receptors. Testosterone will always bind to an androgen receptor and so on.
Carmelo
Ok
Ridwan
Yes
Mohan
yes
Nasrat
what are the characteristics of blood
yeboah 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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