5 Functions of The Red Blood Cells In The Body

Functions of The Red Blood Cells In The Body

Blood can convey a lot of information about a person. For instance, like other cells, white blood cells contain DNA which determines a person’s unique genetic profile.

Blood may also contain markers that signal the presence of certain diseases, such as cancer, and indicate chemical imbalances like iron deficiency. An individual’s risk of suffering from a heart disease to a toxic substance can be determined from a blood sample.

Blood levels of alcohol and drugs can indicate a person’s degree of impairment for performing certain tasks, such as driving. No other bodily tissue can provide such a range of information about a person’s health.

In this post, we will talk about the red blood cells and how it functions in different parts of the body.

Why Blood Is a Fluid Tissue

Blood is classified as a connective tissue because it consists of cells surrounded by a fluid known as the plasma. Although many other connective tissues play important structural and protective roles, blood functions to distribute a wide variety of substances that are critical to life. Blood transports nutrients from their site of absorption in the digestive tract to the cells that require these nutrients.

It carries waste products of the cells activities to the lungs, liver, and kidneys for disposal from the body. Blood distributes hormones to organs to coordinate physiological functions.

The blood transports oxygen from the lungs to the cells for respiration, while white blood cells are important in fighting infection.

Blood also carries clotting factors and platelets to help prevent the blood loss that often occurs with injury. It also carries heat generated in the body core to other parts of the body, and distributes water and electrolytes to all of the tissues.

Cells of The Blood

If we take a sample of whole blood and spin it down in a centrifuge to separate it’s major components, we would obtain:

  • Plasma
  • Buffy coat
  • Erythrocytes

At the top of the centrifuged blood sample is the fluid portion, the plasma, which represents about 55% of the total volume. Beneath that is a whitish layer called the buffy coat.

centrifuging whole blood, blood centrifuging, spinning blood sample

This layer contains white blood cells known as leukocytes which fights diseases, and platelets, which function in blood clotting and the slowing of blood loss. This layer constitutes less than 1% of the total volume of blood.

The remaining nearly 45% of blood consists of red blood cells, which carries oxygen to the tissues. The buffy coat and erythrocytes are the blood’s solid components.

What Are Red Blood Cells?

Mature red blood cells are unusual because they are so structurally simple.

In the bone marrow, immature red blood cells contain all the organelles that typical cells contain. But during their maturation process, before they enter the circulatory system, red blood cells lose many of their major organelles.

A mature red blood cell does not have a nucleus and it has no means of activating genes. It has no ribosomes, mitochondria and other organelles that typical animal cells have.

oxy-hemoglobin, oxygenated blood, hemoglobin, hemoglobin molecules, red blood cells, red cells

Each red blood cell is a package of hemoglobin molecules. Hemoglobin is the red iron-containing pigment that carries oxygen in the blood. The biconcave shape of the red blood cell allows it to fold and squeeze through small capillaries and provides a large surface area for oxygen diffusion.

Now that we know about the red blood cells what are the functions?.

Functions of The Red Blood Cells

The five functions of the red blood cells in the body are:

  • Red blood cells contains hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.
  • It has no nucleus and has more space to carry hemoglobin and oxygen.
  • It has a circular biconcave shape. This increases the surface to volume ratio and therefore oxygen can diffuse in and out at a more efficient and faster rate.
  • It has a thin outer membrane to let oxygen diffuse through easily.
  • The red cell is also capable of transporting carbon dioxide (CO2) from the periphery to the lungs.

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Related: How Does The Blood Flow Through The Heart