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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

why human blood pressure high
amin Reply
What is red blood cell
HANNAH Reply
A type of blood cell that is made in the bone marrow and found in the blood. Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Checking the number of red blood cells in the blood is usually part of a complete blood cell (CBC) test. It
Noor
red blood cell are the most numerous blood cells.they comprise about 99% of all blood cells red blood cells are non nucleated it has red colour due to present to hemoglobin.
Vineeta
Thanks for the answers
HANNAH
how will you promote quality of life in ptb patient using the 14 basic needs and 21 nursing problems?
rOx Reply
coronary circulation ?
Juri Reply
Coronary circulation is the circulation of blood in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle (myocardium). Coronary arteries supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle, and cardiac veins drain away the blood once it has been deoxygenated. Because the rest of the body.
Riyaz
coronary circulation ,is flow of blood that supplies the heart tissue itself is the coronary circulation. the functional blood supply of the heart,is the shortest circulation in tha body.
Vineeta
what about the easy way to understand action potential
Bright
event of cardiac cycle
Juri Reply
hii
Chandan
whatisanatom
kaso Reply
anatomy is the scientific way of studying the body structure.
cynthia
the branch of science concerned with the bodily structure of humans, animals, and other living organisms, especially as revealed by dissection and the separation of parts.
Noor
what is means by LAPE and HAPE
Noor
guys i've question what occur when homeostasis balance mechanisms lost
cris Reply
Bladder is blank to the small intestine, what is the right directional term for that?
Julaika Reply
When peristaltic movement is correct.
Farid
what tissue that support body organ?
Sabrina Reply
the skeleton
veronica
Skeleton
GEBAH
skeleton
Juwita
skeleton
Farid
skeleton
Priya
skeleton
Emmanuel
skeleton
Noor
skeleton
BILAL
skeleton
hanuman
how many bones are there in the body
hanuman Reply
go uuu
Prasad
206
Prasad
206
Nelago
206
Esmeralda
206
Joey
baby me 360. and human body 206.found bones.....
Sneha
what is a tissue in Anatomy and physiology
Nelago
206 bones
Juwita
what is an example of a molecule that can directly pass through the phospholipid bilayer of the plasma membrane?
Kathy
206
Johara
how many bones are there in the hand and wrist
hanuman
200 tissue
hanuman
answer 206 bones
GEBAH
axial 80 appendicular 126 total bone is 206
Vineeta
wrist bone 8
Vineeta
baby bone 270 he is correct answer
hanuman
Jo carpus wrist bone h
Vineeta
206
Musonda
206 bones in human body.
Farid
What is Heart attack?
Farid
206
Priti
206 all
Sa
All 206
Sa
A heart attack happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can't get oxygen. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Heart attack treatment works best when it's given right after symptoms occu
Riyaz
how can l understand Anatomy quickly?
Agness Reply
you can't!!!! Anatomy is easy but the physiology takes time to understand. Anatomy is simply systems and organs but you must take time to learn physiology to understand how the anatomy works
Rachael
alright.. so how can l at least memorize the information about physiology?
Agness
what name is given to the fluid that is drawn from the villi to the lymphatic vessels
margaret Reply
I think venous
Noor
lymph
Rachael
I also think it's lymph
Akhi
me too I think lymph
Esmeralda
ans Rhythmic contraction
GEBAH
what are the ten (10) rights for drug administration
GEBAH
importance of muscle in the anatomical structures.
Akomeng Reply
it permits the constant level of movement,and gives structure and shape to the body
Priya
what is assimilation
Asiimwe Reply
cellular level organism level chemical level organ system level tissue level organ level
Aleah Reply
, the current topic
Hilya
cellular level
Priya
tissue level
Priya
organ level
Priya
organ systems level
Priya
organism level
Priya

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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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