Red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, are cellular components of the blood, millions of which in vertebrate circulation give blood its characteristic color and carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. The mature human red blood cell is small, round, and biconcave; appears as a dumbbell on the profile. The cell is flexible and bell-shaped as it passes through extremely small blood vessels. It is covered by a membrane composed of lipids and proteins, lacks a nucleus and contains hemoglobin, a red protein rich in iron that binds to oxygen.

Red blood cell function

The function of the red blood cell and its hemoglobin is to carry oxygen from the lungs or gills to all tissues of the body and carry carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, to the lungs, where it is excreted. In invertebrates, the oxygen-carrying pigment is released into the plasma; its concentration in red blood cells in vertebrates, whereby oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged as gases, is more efficient and represents an important evolutionary development. The mammalian red blood cell is further adapted by lacking a nucleus: the amount of oxygen required by the cell for its own metabolism is therefore very low, and most of the transported oxygen can be released into the tissues.

Development of red blood cells

The red blood cell develops in the bone marrow in several stages: from a hemocytoblast, a multipotential cell in the mesenchyme, it becomes an erythroblast (normoblast); During two to five days of development, the erythroblast gradually fills with hemoglobin, and its nucleus and mitochondria (particles in the cytoplasm that provide energy to the cell) disappear. At a late stage, the cell is called a reticulocyte, which eventually turns into a fully mature red blood cell.

Normal red blood cell values

The average number of red blood cells in humans lives from 100 to 120 days; there are about 5.2 million red blood cells per cubic millimeter of blood in the adult human being. Although red blood cells are usually round, a small proportion is oval in the normal person, and in certain inherited states, a larger proportion may be oval. Some diseases also show abnormally shaped red blood cells, eg. Eg, oval in pernicious anemia, crescent-shaped in sickle cell anemia, and with projections that give a spiny appearance in hereditary disorder acantocytosis. The number of red blood cells and the amount of hemoglobin vary between different individuals and under different conditions; the number is higher, for example, in people who live at high altitudes and in polycythemia disease. At birth, the red blood cell count is high; it falls shortly after birth and gradually rises to the adult level at puberty.

Nutrition and red blood cells

Iron-rich foods help you maintain healthy red blood cells. Vitamins are also necessary to build healthy red blood cells. These include vitamin E, which is found in foods like dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds, mangoes, and avocados; vitamins B2, B12, and B3, found in foods like eggs, whole grains, and bananas; and folate, available in fortified cereals, dry beans and lentils, orange juice, and green leafy vegetables.

Red blood cell diseases

Most people don’t think about their red blood cells unless they have a disease that affects these cells. Red blood cell problems can be caused by illness or a lack of iron or vitamins in your diet. Some diseases of the red blood cells are inherited.

Red blood cell diseases include many types of anemia, a condition in which there are too few red blood cells to carry enough oxygen throughout the body. People with anemia may have red blood cells that are unusual or look normal, larger than normal, or smaller than normal.

Symptoms of anemia include tiredness, irregular heartbeat, pale skin, feeling cold, and in severe cases, heart failure. Children who do not have enough healthy red blood cells grow and develop more slowly than other children. These symptoms demonstrate the importance of red blood cells in your daily life.

These are common types of anemia:

  • Iron deficiency anemia. If you don’t have enough iron in your body, your body won’t be able to make enough red blood cells. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. Causes of iron deficiency include a low iron diet, sudden blood loss, chronic blood loss (such as from heavy menstrual periods), or the inability to absorb enough iron from food.
  • Sickle cell anemia In this inherited disease, the red blood cells are shaped like crescents instead of the normal jagged circles. This change in shape can cause the cells to “stick together” and not be able to flow smoothly through the blood vessels. This causes a blockage in blood flow. This blockage can cause acute or chronic pain and can also cause infection or organ damage. Sickle cells die much faster than normal blood cells, in about 10 to 20 days instead of 120 days, causing a shortage of red blood cells.
  • Normocytic anemia. This type of anemia occurs when your red blood cells are normal in shape and size, but you do not have enough to meet your body’s needs. The diseases that cause this type of anemia are usually long-term conditions, such as kidney disease, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Hemolytic anemia . This type of anemia occurs when red blood cells are destroyed by an abnormal process in your body before the end of their life cycle. As a result, your body does not have enough red blood cells to function, and your bone marrow cannot produce enough to meet the demand.
  • Fanconi anemia. This is a rare inherited disorder in which your bone marrow cannot make enough of any of the components of your blood, including red blood cells. Children born with this disorder often have serious birth defects due to problems with their blood and can develop leukemia.
Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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