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Medicine LibreTexts

18: The Cardiovascular System - Blood

  • Page ID
    744
  • Chapter Objectives

    • Identify the primary functions of blood, its fluid and cellular components, and its physical characteristics
    • Identify the most important proteins and other solutes present in blood plasma
    • Describe the formation of the formed element components of blood
    • Discuss the structure and function of red blood cells and hemoglobin
    • Classify and characterize white blood cells
    • Describe the structure of platelets and explain the process of hemostasis
    • Explain the significance of AB and Rh blood groups in blood transfusions
    • Discuss a variety of blood disorders

    • 18.0: Prelude to Blood
      Single-celled organisms do not need blood. They obtain nutrients directly from and excrete wastes directly into their environment. The human organism cannot do that. Our large, complex bodies need blood to deliver nutrients to and remove wastes from our trillions of cells. The heart pumps blood throughout the body in a network of blood vessels. Together, these three components—blood, heart, and vessels—makes up the cardiovascular system.
    • 18.1: An Overview of Blood
      Like all connective tissues, blood is made up of cellular elements and an extracellular matrix. The cellular elements—referred to as the formed elements—include red blood cells, white blood cells, and cell fragments called platelets. The extracellular matrix, called plasma, makes blood unique among connective tissues because it is fluid. This fluid, which is mostly water, perpetually suspends the formed elements and enables them to circulate throughout the body within the cardiovascular system.
    • 18.2: Production of the Formed Elements
      Although one type of leukocyte called memory cells can survive for years, most erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets normally live only a few hours to a few weeks. Thus, the body must form new blood cells and platelets quickly and continuously. Your body typically replaces the donated plasma within 24 hours and it takes about 4 to 6 weeks to replace the blood cells. The process by which this replacement occurs is called hemopoiesis, or hematopoiesis.
    • 18.3: Erythrocytes
      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 (µL) of blood, and females have approximately 4.8 million per µL. In fact, erythrocytes are estimated to make up about 25 percent of the total cells in the body.
    • 18.4: Leukocytes and Platelets
      The leukocyte, commonly known as a white blood cell (or WBC), is a major component of the body’s defenses against disease. Leukocytes protect the body against invading microorganisms and body cells with mutated DNA, and they clean up debris. Platelets are essential for the repair of blood vessels when damage to them has occurred; they also provide growth factors for healing and repair.
    • 18.5: Hemostasis
      Platelets are key players in hemostasis, the process by which the body seals a ruptured blood vessel and prevents further loss of blood. Although rupture of larger vessels usually requires medical intervention, hemostasis is quite effective in dealing with small, simple wounds. There are three steps to the process: vascular spasm, the formation of a platelet plug, and coagulation (blood clotting). Failure of any of these steps will result in hemorrhage—excessive bleeding.
    • 18.6: Blood Typing
      Blood transfusions in humans were risky procedures until the discovery of the major human blood groups by Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian biologist and physician, in 1900. Until that point, physicians did not understand that death sometimes followed blood transfusions, when the type of donor blood infused into the patient was incompatible with the patient’s own blood. Blood groups are determined by the presence or absence of specific marker molecules on the plasma membranes of erythrocytes.

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