Erythrocytes

Haematology at a Glance
Pathophysiology of Blood Disorders
Haematology at a Glance Pathophysiology of Blood Disorders

Erythrocytes (also known as "Red Blood Cells") are one of the many types of components that, together, form blood.


The structure of erythrocytes can be described as follows:

  • Immature erythrocytes have a nucleus but mature erythrocytes have no nucleus.
  • Haem
    • Erythrocytes have a "prosthetic group" (meaning "in addition to" - in this case, in addition to the cell). The active component of this prosthetic group is Haem.
    • Haem relies on the presence of iron (Fe).
    • Haem combines with oxygen to form oxyhaemoglobin.
  • Erythrocytes are eventually broken down by the spleen into the blood pigments bilinubin and bilviridin, and iron. These components are then transported by the blood to the liver where the iron is re-cycled for use by new erythrocytes, and the blood pigments form bile salts. (Bile breaks down fats.)
  • Have a longevity of approx. 120 days.
  • There are approx. 4.5 - 5.8 million erythrocytes per micro-litre of healthy blood (although there are variations between racial groups and between men and women).


The most important function of erythrocytes is that of:

  • Transporting oxygen around the body.


For more information about other components (sometimes called the 'constituents') of blood, see the page about the structure and functions of blood. This may interest students of holistic massage, reflexology, beauty therapies, or health-related courses.

More about blood

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