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Through the Microscope: Blood Cells - Life's Blood

Erythrocytes (red blood cells)

The mature red blood cell (rbc) consists primarily of hemoglobin (about 90%). The membrane is composed of lipids and proteins. In addition, there are numerous enzymes present which are necessary for oxygen transport and cell viability. The main function of the red cell is to carry oxygen to the tissues and return carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. The protein hemoglobin is responsible for most of this exchange. Normal red blood cells are round, have a small area of central pallor, and show only a slight variation in size. A normal red cell is 6-8 µm in diameter. As the relative amount of hemoglobin in the red cell decreases or increases, the area of central pallor will decrease or increase accordingly.

Erythrocytes (red blood cells)