Red blood cells (RBCs) are one of the most recognizable cells in our body. They appear in movies, magazines, and even under the microscope if you keep your wits about you next time you cut yourself. Unlike other cells in your body, RBCs do not contain DNA. Their job, carrying oxygen, is so important that every single square nanometer of the cell is reserved. In this week’s newsletter, we’ll talk about some cool RBC facts and explain their life cycle in the body.
Let There Be RBCs
In adult humans, red blood cells are made from stem cells found in red bone marrow. Your pelvis and femur, since they are large bones, contain the majority of these RBC factories. This is why pelvic breaks and femur breaks (ouch) require immediate medical attention. Blood loss is a serious issue and sometimes, mast pants are required to maintain blood pressure and prevent the person from going into shock.
What’s In A RBC?
Red blood cells are made up of a cell membrane and lots of hemoglobin. The membrane is to keep the cell contents inside the cell, the hemoglobin is the precious oxygen carrier that we talked about at the beginning. This protein is made so that the structure flexes depending on the amount of oxygen in the environment. In the lungs, it picks up oxygen and in capillaries, the shape changes to drop off its package. Not surprisingly, hemoglobin is made up of four subunits and this construction gives it its flexibility.
Unfortunately, some molecules, such as carbon monoxide can bind to hemoglobin much tighter than oxygen. Exposure to this tasteless, odorless, but very harmful chemical leads to oxygen deprivation (and death) very quickly because the hemoglobin are locked in the “pick up” position, unable to let go of the carbon monoxide.
The Color of Poop
Surprisingly, the color of poop has a lot to do with red blood cells. Yes, what you eat can affect it, but the default color is caused by the excretion of spent RBCs. After circulating for about 120 days, old RBCs are broken down in the liver and excreted into the intestines. This waste product, called bilirubin, has a brownish color. You’ll know that you’ve got a bile duct obstruction, if you poop out white poo.
Get Some RBCs Without the Mess
If you enjoyed this week’s newsletter about the fascinating red blood cell, you’ll be happy to know that we carry a full load of different RBC jewelry in our shop. From gold-plated necklaces to rings to dangling earrings to studs, we have it all! Purchase it for yourself or for a friend. These pieces also make great gifts for phlebotomists, cardiovascular specialists, hungry vampires, and carbon monoxide detector technicians.
written by Science with Evie