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Lifeblood

(This information supplied by Day Walker. Thank you.)

The average adult has about five liters of blood living inside of their body, coursing through their vessels, delivering essentialelements, and removing harmful wastes. Without blood, the human body would stop working.

Blood is the fluid of life, transporting oxygen from the lungs to body tissue and carbon dioxide from body tissue to the lungs. Bloodis the fluid of growth, transporting nourishment from digestion and hormones from glands throughout the body. Blood is the fluid of health, transporting disease fighting substances to the tissue and waste to the kidneys.

Because it contains living cells, blood is alive. Red blood cells and white blood cells are responsible for nourishing and cleansing the body. Since the cells are alive, they too need nourishment. Vitamins and Minerals keep the blood healthy. The blood cells have a definite life cycle, just as all living organisms do.

Approximately 55 percent of blood is plasma, a straw-colored clear liquid. The liquid plasma carries the solid cells and the platelets which help blood clot. Without blood platelets, you would bleed to death.

When the human body loses a little bit of blood through a minor wound, the platelets cause the blood to clot so that the bleeding stops. Because new blood is always being made inside of your bones, the body can replace the lost blood. When the human body loses a lot of blood through a major wound, that blood has to be replaced through a blood transfusion from other people.

But everybody's blood is not the same. There are four different blood types. Plus, your blood has Rh factors which make it even more unique. Blood received through a transfusion must match your own. Patients who are scheduled to have major surgery make autologous blood donations (donations of their own blood) so that they have a perfect match.

Red blood cells perform the most important blood duty. A single drop of blood contains millions of red blood cells which areconstantly traveling through your body delivering oxygen and removing waste. If they weren't, your body would slowly die.

Red blood cells are red only because they contain a protein chemical called hemoglobin which is bright red in color. Hemoglobin contains the element Iron, making it an excellent vehicle for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide. As blood passes through the lungs, oxygen molecules attach to the hemoglobin. As the blood passes through the body's tissue, the hemoglobin releases the oxygen to the cells. The empty hemoglobin molecules then bond with the tissue's carbon dioxide or other waste gases, transporting it away.

Over time, the red blood cells get worn out and eventually die. The average life cycle of a red blood cell is 120 days. Your bones are continually producing new blood cells, replenishing your supply. The blood itself, however, is re-circulated throughout your body, not being remade all of the time.

Since the human body is continually making more blood, it is safe for healthy adults to donate blood. The blood is then stored for use in emergency situations. Initially after giving blood, the donor may feel some momentary lightheadedness due to the loss of oxygen-rich red blood cells and blood sugar. The body quickly stabilizes itself.

Whenever a germ or infection enters the body, the white blood cells snap to attention and race toward the scene of the crime. The white blood cells are continually on the lookout for signs of disease. When a germ does appear, the white blood cells have a variety of ways by which they can attack. Some will produce protective antibodies that will overpower the germ. Others will surround and devour the bacteria.

The white blood cells have a rather short life cycle, living from a few days to a few weeks. A drop of blood can contain anywhere from 7 000 to 25 000 white blood cells at a time. If an invading infection fights back and persists, that number will significantly increase.

A consistently high number of white blood cells is a symptom of Leukemia, a cancer of the blood. A Leukemia patient may have as many as 50 000 white blood cells in a single drop of blood.

It's a straw-colored, clear liquid that is 90 percent water, and it is an essential ingredient for human survival.

It might seem like plasma is less important than the blood cells it carries. But that would be like saying that the stream is less important than the fish that swims in it. You can't have one without the other.

Besides water, plasma also contains dissolved salts and minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Microbe-fighting antibodies travel to the battlefields of disease by hitching a ride in the plasma.

Without plasma, the life-giving blood cells would be left floundering without transportation. Never underestimate the importance of plasma.

In some ways, every person's blood is the same. But, when analyzed under a microscope, distinct differences are visible. In the early 20th century, an Austrian scientist named Karl Landsteiner classified blood according to those differences. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his achievements.

Landsteiner observed two distinct chemical molecules present on the surface of the red blood cells. He labeled one molecule "A" and the other molecule "B." If the red blood cell had only "A" molecules on it, that blood was called type A. If the red blood cell had only "B" molecules on it, that blood was called type B. If the red blood cell had a mixture of both molecules, that blood wascalled type AB. If the red blood cell had neither molecule, that blood was called type O.

If two different blood types are mixed together, the blood cells may begin to clump together in the blood vessels, causing a potentially fatal situation. Therefore, it is important that blood types be matched before blood transfusions take place. In an emergency, type O blood can be given because it most likely to be accepted by all blood types. However, there is still a risk involved.

A person with type A blood can donate blood to a person with type A or type AB. A person with type B blood can donate blood to a person with type B or type AB. A person with type AB blood can donate blood to a person with type AB only. A person with type O blood can donate to anyone.

A person with type A blood can receive blood from a person with type A or type O. A person with type B blood can receive blood from a person with type B or type O. A person with type AB blood can receive blood from anyone. A person with type O blood can receive blood from a person with type O only.

Because of these patterns, a person with type O blood is said to be a universal donor. A person with type AB blood is said to be a universal receiver. In general, however, it is still best to mix blood of matching types and Rh factors.

Scientists sometimes study Rhesus monkeys to learn more about the human anatomy because there are certain similarities between the two species. While studying Rhesus monkeys, a certain blood protein was discovered. This protein is also present in the blood of some people. Other people, however, do not have the protein. The presence of the protein, or lack of it, is referred to as the Rh (for Rhesus) factor.

If your blood does contain the protein, your blood is said to be Rh positive (Rh+). If your blood does not contain the protein, your blood is said to be Rh negative (Rh-).

This Rh factor is connected to your blood type. For example, your blood may be AB+ which means that you have type AB blood with a positive Rh factor. Or you might have O- blood which means that you have type O blood with a negative Rh factor.

It is particularly important for expectant mothers to know their blood's Rh factor. Occasionally, a baby will inherit an Rh positive blood type from its father while the mother has an Rh negative blood type. The baby's life could be in great danger if the mother's Rh negative blood attacks the baby's Rh positive blood. If this happens, an exchange transfusion may save the baby's life. The baby's blood can be exchanged for new blood that matches the mother's.

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