6 Characteristics of blood cell

Blood cells are those that are present moving in the plasma through the veins and arteries of our body. There are three types of blood cells: red blood cell or erythrocyte, white blood cell or leukocyte, and platelets, also called thrombocytes. Likewise, each type of blood cell has a specific function, for example, the main function of erythrocytes is to supply oxygen to all tissues.

If you are interested in learning more about what blood cells are and their types , we invite you to continue reading this BIOencyclopedia article where you will learn about the functions, types of blood cells and much more information.

What are blood cells

If we put a drop of our blood under a microscope we can observe a variety of moving elements. All of these elements are grouped together and are known, together, as blood cells.

Blood cells are types of cells that are found running through our veins and arteries in a liquid called plasma . Our body has three types of blood cells: red blood cells or erythrocytes, white blood cells or leukocytes, and platelets or thrombocytes.

An important step during the process of producing new blood cells is maturation, in which the three types of cells undergo the following changes:

  • Decrease in size.
  • The nucleus-cytoplasm ratio decreases (in erythrocytes the nucleus disappears).
  • The chromatin appears darker because it is conglomerated.
  • The nucleoli disappear.
  • The cytoplasm loses its basophilic characteristics.

Characteristics blood cell

Blood cells are specialized cells found in the circulatory system that perform essential functions in the body. Here are some key characteristics of blood cells:

  1. Red Blood Cells (Erythrocytes): Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to various tissues and organs. They contain a protein called hemoglobin that binds to oxygen in the lungs and releases it to cells throughout the body. Red blood cells have a unique biconcave shape, which allows for a larger surface area for oxygen exchange. They lack a nucleus, enabling them to carry more oxygen.
  2. White Blood Cells (Leukocytes): White blood cells are crucial for the body’s immune response and defense against infections. There are different types of white blood cells, including neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. Each type has specific functions in detecting, attacking, and destroying pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. White blood cells are larger and have a nucleus compared to red blood cells.
  3. Platelets (Thrombocytes): Platelets are small, irregularly shaped cell fragments involved in blood clotting. When there is a cut or injury to a blood vessel, platelets aggregate at the site to form a clot, preventing excessive bleeding. Platelets release chemicals that activate other clotting factors and help in the repair and healing process. They do not have a nucleus.
  4. Blood Cell Production: Blood cells are continually produced in the bone marrow through a process called hematopoiesis. Stem cells in the bone marrow differentiate and mature into specific blood cell types. Erythropoiesis produces red blood cells, leukopoiesis produces white blood cells, and thrombopoiesis produces platelets.
  5. Lifespan: The lifespan of blood cells varies. Red blood cells typically circulate in the bloodstream for about 120 days before being removed by the spleen and liver. White blood cells have a shorter lifespan, ranging from a few hours to several days, depending on the specific type. Platelets have a lifespan of around 7 to 10 days.
  6. Blood Cell Counts: Blood cell counts are routinely measured in medical tests to evaluate a person’s overall health. This includes determining the number and relative proportions of different blood cell types. Abnormalities in blood cell counts can indicate various conditions, such as anemia, infections, or leukemia.

In summary, blood cells consist of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. They perform vital functions, such as oxygen transport, immune response, and blood clotting. Blood cell production occurs in the bone marrow, and their lifespan varies depending on the cell type. Monitoring blood cell counts helps assess a person’s health status.

Blood cell function

Blood cells are an essential part of the circulatory system and each type of blood cell will fulfill vital functions for our body to develop correctly:

  • Red blood cells (erythrocytes): they are responsible for supplying oxygen from the lungs to tissues and organs, in addition to carrying carbon dioxide from the tissues and organs to the lungs.
  • White blood cells (leukocytes): their function is to fight infections and be part of our immune system.
  • Platelets (thrombocytes): they are responsible for clotting the blood when we get a wound or cut.

Red blood cells (erythrocytes)

This type of blood cell, also called a red blood cell, is the most numerous cell in the blood . Its half-life is 120-140 days, and it is shaped like a biconcave, anucleated disc, with a diameter of 7.5 µm. On the other hand, the red blood cell has a basic structure organized into: membrane, hemoglobin and non-hemoglobin components.

  • Membrane: composed of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates distributed in such a way that it helps the erythrocyte maintain the elasticity necessary to move through the narrowest capillaries of our body.
  • Hemoglobin: molecule that represents about one third of the volume of the red blood cell, and has a mass of 68 kDa. It is made up of four subunits, and each subunit is composed of globin and a heme group. Hemoglobin is the main component of the red blood cell, as it is the protein that transports oxygen to all our tissues.
  • Non-hemoglobin components: there is water, substrates, cofactors, salts and enzymes that allow the red blood cell to obtain energy through its metabolic activities.

White blood cells (leukocytes)

Unlike erythrocytes, this type of blood cell does not contain pigments , which is why they are known as white blood cells. They are cells that have mitochondria, nuclei and other cellular organelles, they use pseudopodia to move freely, their size varies between 8 to 20 μm, and they have a lifespan that varies from a few hours.

White blood cells play an essential role in our body’s defense , since each type of leukocyte has a function, and together, they protect us against some infectious microorganism or foreign substance.

Leukocytes are divided into:

  • Granulocytes: neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils.
  • Agranulocytes: monocytes and lymphocytes (T cells, B cells and NK cells).

An interesting fact about leukocytes is their rapid manufacturing capacity. For example, if you currently have an infection, the number of your white blood cells will have increased, since your body needs more leukocytes in order to attack and destroy the pathogen that is causing your infection.

Platelets (thrombocytes)

It is the third most important component that belongs to the group of blood cells. Some of its features are the following:

  • Its origin is in the bone marrow .
  • They are disc-shaped with irregular edges .
  • They do not have a core.
  • Its diameter is 2-3 µm.
  • Its half-life varies between 8 and 11 days.

Thrombocytes are extremely important in the healing and repair processes of our tissues , otherwise, if our blood platelet levels are decreased or very high, then we could suffer from bruising, continuous bleeding, chest pain, dizziness, among others. A decreased level of platelets is called thrombocytopenia, while if they are elevated it is called thrombocytosis.

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