What is Blood?

Blood is a liquid that circulates through the body via a pathway of blood vessels, arteries and veins, carrying nutrients, oxygen, antibodies and other necessities of life to every cell and tissue throughout the entire body. Blood is also the means by which waste and waste byproducts are removed from the cells. Think of the circulatory system as a transportation system consisting of vehicles, roads and highways, similar to how we move goods and products throughout the world!

Of course, we don’t have little vehicles speeding through our veins, so how does blood do this? Whole blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, all which are suspended in a fluid called plasma. Each of these components of our blood has a very specific and important job.

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a type of protein that gives blood its red color, and are primarily responsible for carrying fresh oxygen throughout the body while removing spent carbon dioxide from the cells.

White blood cells are very important to our immune system; they protect us from foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Platelets are the smallest-sized components in whole blood, but they are mighty in importance. They are responsible for blood clotting, which helps stop bleeding should we suffer from a cut or other trauma to the circulatory system.

Plasma is the fluid protein and salt solution in which the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are suspended. Plasma is 90 percent water and also contains several proteins that aid in blood clotting and the creation of antibodies. It is vital in providing blood volume, hydration, and mineral exchanges throughout the body, which are critical for proper cell function.

A whole blood donation can be separated into its different components and used for specific treatments for cancer or other illnesses, bleeding disorders or traumatic injury. In fact, since a single blood donation can be separated into components, your donation may help three different transfusion patients!

Medical advances and modern surgical techniques, (such as cancer treatments, organ transplants and open heart surgery), have increased the need for blood. In addition, the advancing age of the Baby Boomer generation has caused stress on the blood supply. Our national blood supply must be ready for everyday needs as well as the unexpected, such as accidents, natural or manmade disasters. Volunteer blood donors are needed year-round.

All blood is not the same! Different people have different blood types. Learn more about Human Blood Types.

Sources: AABB (AABB.org), America’s Blood Centers (AmericasBlood.org)

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