Visualizing the Composition of Blood
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Visualizing the Composition of Blood

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composition of blood

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The Composition of Blood

Have you ever wondered what blood is made up of?

With the average adult possessing five to six liters of blood in the body, this fluid is vital to our lives, circulating oxygen through the body and serving many different functions.

Despite its simple, deep-red appearance, blood is comprised of many tiny chemical components. This infographic visualizes the composition of blood and the microscopic contents in it.

What is Blood Made Up Of?

There are two main components that comprise blood:

  • Plasma – 55%
    Plasma is the fluid or aqueous part of blood, making up more than half of blood content.
  • Formed elements – 45%
    Formed elements refer to the cells, platelets, and cell fragments that are suspended in the plasma.

Plasma

Plasma is primarily made up of water (91%), salts, and enzymes, but it also carries important proteins and components that serve many bodily functions.

Plasma proteins make up 7% of plasma contents and are created in the liver. These include:

  • Albumins
    These proteins keep fluids from leaking out of blood vessels into other parts of the body. They also transport important molecules like calcium and help neutralize toxins.
  • Globulins
    These play an important role in clotting blood and fighting infections and are also transporters of hormones, minerals, and fats.
  • Fibrinogen and Prothrombin
    Both of these proteins help stop bleeding by facilitating the creation of blood clots during wound-healing.

Water and proteins make up 98% of plasma in blood. The other 2% is made up of small traces of chemical byproducts and cellular waste, including electrolytes, glucose, and other nutrients.

Formed Elements

There are three categories of formed elements in blood: platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells. Red blood cells make up 99% of formed elements, with the other 1% comprised of platelets and white blood cells.

  • Platelets (Thrombocytes)
    Platelets are cells from the immune system with the primary function of forming clots to reduce bleeding from wounds. This makes them critical not only for small wounds like cuts but also for surgeries and traumatic injuries.
  • White blood cells (Leukocytes)
    White blood cells protect our bodies from infection. There are five types of white blood cells with different roles in fighting infections: some attack foreign cells and viruses, some produce antibodies, some clean up dead cells, and some respond to allergens.
  • Red blood cells (Erythrocytes)
    Red blood cells deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients all over the body. They contain a special protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen and gives blood its bright red color.

The lifespan of a typical red blood cell is around 120 days, after which it dies and is replaced by a new cell. Our bodies are constantly producing red blood cells in the bone marrow, at a rate of millions of cells per second.

Abnormal Red Blood Cells

Normal red blood cells are round, flattened disks that are thinner in the middle. However, certain diseases and medical therapies can change the shape of red blood cells in different ways.

Here are the types of abnormal red blood cells and their associated diseases:

composition of blood

Sickle cell anemia is a well-known disease that affects the shape of red blood cells. Unlike normal, round red blood cells, cells associated with sickle cell disease are crescent- or sickle-shaped, which can slow and block blood flow.

Other common causes of abnormally shaped red blood cells are thalassemia, hereditary blood disorders, iron deficiency anemia, and liver disease. Identifying abnormal blood cells plays an important role in diagnosing the underlying causes and in finding treatments.

The Functions of Blood

We know that blood is vital, but what does it actually do in the body?

For starters, here are some of the functions of blood:

  • Blood transports oxygen to different parts of the body, providing an energy source. It also delivers carbon dioxide to the lungs for exhalation.
  • The platelets, white blood cells, and plasma proteins in blood play an important role in fighting infections and clotting.
  • Blood transports the body’s waste products to the kidneys and liver, which filter it and recirculate clean blood.
  • Blood helps regulate the body’s internal temperature by absorbing and distributing heat throughout the body.

While we all know that we can’t live without blood, it serves many different functions in the body that we often don’t notice. For humans and many other organisms alike, blood is an integral component that keeps us alive and going.

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Technology

Timeline: The Most Important Science Headlines of 2022

Join us as we look back at some of the most exciting, inspiring, and biggest science stories that made headlines in 2022.

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Scientific Headlines of 2022

Scientific discoveries and technological innovation play a vital role in addressing many of the challenges and crises that we face every year.

The last year may have come and gone quickly, but scientists and researchers have worked painstakingly hard to advance our knowledge within a number of disciplines, industries, and projects around the world.

Over the course of 2022, it’s easy to lose track of all the amazing stories in science and technology.

At a Glance: Major Scientific Headlines of 2022

Below we dive a little deeper into some of the most interesting headlines, while providing links in case you want to explore these developments further.

January 2022

The James Webb Space Telescope Arrives at its Destination

What happened: A new space telescope brings promise of exciting findings and beautiful images from the final frontier. This telescope builds on the legacy of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which launched over 30 years ago.

Why it matters: The James Webb Space Telescope is our latest state-of-the-art “window” into deep space. With more access to the infrared spectrum, new images, measurements, and observations of outer space will become available.

» To learn more, read this article from The Planetary Society, or watch this video from the Wall Street Journal.

April 2022

Complete: The Human Genome

What happened: Scientists finish sequencing the human genome.

Why it matters: A complete human genome allows researchers to better understand the genetic basis of human traits and diseases. New therapies and treatments are likely to arise from this development.

» To learn more, watch this video by Two Minute Papers, or read this article from NIH

May 2022

Monkeypox Breaks Out

What happened: A higher volume of cases of the monkeypox virus was reported in non-endemic countries.

Why it matters: Trailing in the shadow of a global pandemic, researchers are keeping a closer eye on how diseases spread. The sudden spike of multinational incidences of monkeypox raises questions about disease evolution and prevention.

» To learn more, read this article by the New York Times.

June 2022

A Perfectly Preserved Woolly Mammoth

What happened: Gold miners unearth a 35,000 year old, well-preserved baby woolly mammoth in the Yukon tundra.

Why it matters: The mammoth, named Nun cho ga by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, is the most complete specimen discovered in North America to date. Each new discovery allows paleontologists to broaden our knowledge of biodiversity and how life changes over time.

» To learn more, read this article from Smithsonian Magazine

July 2022

The Rise of AI Art

What happened: Access to new computer programs, such as DALL-E and Midjourney, give members of the general public the ability to create images from text-prompts.

Why it matters: Widespread access to generative AI tools fuels inspiration—and controversy. Concern for artist rights and copyright violations grow as these programs potentially threaten to diminish creative labor.

» To learn more, read this article by MyModernMet, or watch this video by Cleo Abram.

August 2022

Dead Organs Get a Second Chance

What happened: Researchers create a perfusion system that can revitalize organs after cellular death. Using a special mixture of blood and nutrients, organs of a dead pig can be sustained after death—and in some cases, even promote cellular repair.

Why it matters: This discovery could potentially lead to a greater shelf-life and supply of organs for transplant.

» To learn more, read this article by Scientific American, or this article from the New York Times

September 2022

DART Delivers A Cosmic Nudge

What happened: NASA crashes a spacecraft into an asteroid just to see how much it would move. Dimorphos, a moonlet orbiting a larger asteroid called Didymos 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth, is struck by the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft. NASA estimates that as much as 22 million pounds (10 million kg) was ejected after the impact.

Why it matters: Earth is constantly at risk of being struck by stray asteroids. Developing reliable methods of deflecting near-Earth objects could save us from meeting the same fate as the dinosaurs.

» To learn more, watch this video by Real Engineering, or read this article from Space.com

November 2022

Falling Sperm Counts

What happened: A scientific review suggests human sperm counts are decreasing—up to 62% over the past 50 years.

Why it matters: A lower sperm count makes it more difficult to conceive naturally. Concerns about global declining male health also arise because sperm count is a marker for overall health. Researchers look to extraneous stressors that may be affecting this trend, such as diet, environment, or other means.

» To learn more, check out this article from the Guardian.

December 2022

Finding Ancient DNA

What happened: Two million-year-old DNA is found in Greenland.

Why it matters: DNA is a record of biodiversity. Apart from showing that a desolate Arctic landscape was once teeming with life, ancient DNA gives hints about our advancement to modern life and how biodiversity evolves over time.

» To learn more, read this article from National Geographic

December 2022

Fusing Energy

What happened: The U.S. Department of Energy reports achieving net energy gain for the first time in the development of nuclear fusion.

Why it matters: Fusion is often seen as the Holy Grail of safe clean energy, and this latest milestone brings researchers one step closer to harnessing nuclear fusion to power the world.

» To learn more, view our infographic on fusion, or read this article from BBC

Science in the New Year

The future of scientific research looks bright. Researchers and scientists are continuing to push the boundaries of what we know and understand about the world around us.

For 2023, some disciplines are likely to continue to dominate headlines:

  • Advancement in space continues with projects like the James Webb Space Telescope and SETI COSMIC’s hunt for life beyond Earth
  • Climate action may become more demanding as recovery and prevention from extreme weather events continue into the new year
  • Generative AI tools such as DALL-e and ChatGPT were opened to public use in 2022, and ignited widespread interest in the potential of artificial intelligence
  • Even amidst the lingering shadow of COVID-19, new therapeutics should advance medicine into new territories

Where science is going remains to be seen, but this past year instills faith that 2023 will be filled with even more progress.

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