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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

Card 5 / 12: For whom would an appreciation of the structural characteristics of the human heart come more easily: an alien who lands on Earth, abducts a human, and dissects his heart, or an anatomy and physiology student performing a dissection of the heart on her very first day of class? Why?
Gelowe Reply
what are regular shaped cells with granules in the cytoplasam
Kabita Reply
PMNL
Dinu
I need sylubuss of clinical officers book
Omary Reply
cholesterol normal value is
BISWANATH Reply
less than 200mg/dl
Ashis
100 to159mg/dL
Dinu
Early this wk. I had some "A & P" questions & answers unfortunately didn't save them, Is there any way I can have them back ,so as 2 save them?. Thnx.
Kechi
what are the functions of the female reproductive system
Lister Reply
it produces the female egg necessary for reproduction, called the Ova or Oocytes. The system is designed to transport the Ova to the site of fertilization.
Kechi
Female reproductive system was mainly functioned to produce ova(ovum) (female eggs) Into which will be fertilized by male gamete to produce zygote
Omary
absolutely right
nimco
wa qalad nimco rage iska hubi
Khaliil
waxwalba ka fikirbay ubaahantahay
Ahmed
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacdat
Khaliil
ha wayo jawabtoda wa qabyo nimco wey ku raacday
Khaliil
wxayaabaha qaarkood waaa in aan u feejignaano
Ahmed
asc if I try female reproductive system has two function the first is to produce egg cell and the second is to protact and nourish the offspring until birth
Muriidi
what is stercobilinogen
Hancerich Reply
fecal urobilinogen. Created by bacteria in the gut. a chemical that gives feces brown color.
Blayne
next question pls.
Kechi
The rate of diffusion increases if the
stella
What's the answer?
Kechi
it's a breaking down of haemoglobin and it's a chemical made by bacteria
Dev
Thnx Dev Raj.
Kechi
yup so any more
Dev
yes I sure do need more "Questions" & "Answers". I'm learning whole lot. Thnx.
Kechi
what is the greatest muscle of the body
Lungu Reply
gluteus maximus
ABDULLAH
pls!!! more "A&P" questions & answers. Thnx.
Kechi
Gluteus maximus
THE
Describe anatomy of cardiovascular system?
cardiovascular system is a group of organs coming together to perform the circulation of blood. The organs invoked are the heart and the blood vessels with blood being the tissue. The heart is a pump and it pumps oxygenated blood through the systemic circuit and deoxygenated blood through the pulmon
bernard
pulmonary circuit.
bernard
more A&P questions pls. Thnx.
Kechi
If an ANOVA yields a significant F value, you could rely on ________ to test significant differences between group means.
Dane Reply
what's ANOVA
Cassandra
analysis of variance
Blayne
plz what you mean with "ANOVA" first
Fatima
anova means analysis of variance, a statistical method in which the variation in a set of observations is divided into distinct components.
Blayne
M value ot test
ABDULLAH
What does it mean by M value ot test?
Orpha
formation of red blood cells
Biketi Reply
explain why... lower back pain in ovarian cancer
Srijoni Reply
we says that protoplasm is the living part of us How?
Muzamil Reply
is the leaving part of our cellular structure.
Eric
it is the leaving part of our blood cellular structure also
ABDULLAH
what is receptor?
Preity Reply
an organ or cell able to respond to light, heat, or other external stimulus and transmit a signal to a sensory nerve.
Jessi
Has anyone taken the first exam?
Sandra
yes
yahye
yes
Allan
hey what is the process after your food is swallowed? how long does it take to get to the stomache until it is released as waste?
Fednise Reply
that is such a broad question. as you begin to swallow its various doses down the alimentary canal that brings the food into your stomach.then depending on whether it's a protein carbohydrate fat that dictates what function takes place in your stomach. these are all steps of digestion.
Joseph
typo sorry it's peristalsis , wave-like projections that push food down your alimentary canal etc. digestion starts in your mouth ends in your large intestines (colon anus)
Joseph
some of the many processes of digestion include hydrolysis dehydration synthesis denaturation of proteins etc. you have to be more specific.
Joseph
there's many different contributing factors the how long it takes food to convert into waste. remember fats, triglycerides proteins and carbohydrates all breakdown two different monomers and structures. you should be looking up metabolic processes.
Joseph
depending how much fiber you have in your diet dictates how much water is brought to your intestines that has to do with excretion whether fiber is insoluble or soluble. this is an anatomy and physiology app. to simply say the stomach will empty its contents in 2 to 3 hours would do you a disservice
Joseph
can the study of anatomy relate to medical technologies
Lean Reply
yes
Khh
absolutely
Jessi
yes...
Sherif
how can I understand micro biology and anatomy better.
Cassandra
yes
Kevin
someone to help me understand glycogeneogenesis
abel
what are the major branches of the aorta?
Kevin
look youtube video
Jessi

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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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