Your Marvelous Red Blood Cells
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SOUTH AFRICA
The most common cell in your bloodstream gives blood its red color and is thus called a red blood cell. Just one drop of your blood contains hundreds of millions of such cells. When viewed through a microscope, they look like doughnuts with a depressed center instead of a hole. Each cell is packed with hundreds of millions of hemoglobin molecules. Each hemoglobin molecule is, in turn, a beautiful spherical structure made up of about 10,000 hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur atoms, plus four heavier atoms of iron, which give blood its oxygen-carrying ability. Hemoglobin facilitates the transport of carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs, where it is exhaled.
Another vital part of your red blood cells is their skin, called a membrane. This marvelous covering enables the cells to stretch into thin shapes so as to pass through your tiniest blood vessels and thus sustain every part of your body.
Your red blood cells are manufactured in your bone marrow. Once a new cell enters your bloodstream, it may circulate through your heart and body more than 100,000 times. Unlike other cells, red blood cells have no nucleus. This gives them more space to carry oxygen and makes them lighter, which helps your heart to pump trillions of red blood cells throughout your body. However, lacking a nucleus, they are unable to renew their internal parts. Thus, after about 120 days, your red blood cells begin to deteriorate and lose their elasticity. Large white blood cells called phagocytes consume these worn-out cells and spit out the iron atoms. The scarce iron atoms attach themselves to transport molecules that take them to your bone marrow to be used in the manufacture of new red cells. Every second, your bone marrow releases two million to three million new red cells into your bloodstream!
If your trillions of red blood cells were suddenly to stop functioning, you would die within minutes. How thankful we should be to Jehovah God for this marvelous aspect of his creation, which enables us to live and enjoy life! No doubt you agree with the psalmist who said: “O Jehovah, you have searched through me, and you know me. I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, as my soul is very well aware.”—Psalm 139:1, 14.
[Diagram on page 24]
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Red blood cell