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Blood is a circulating tissue composed of fluid plasma and cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets). Medical terms related to blood often begin in hemo- or hemato- (BE: haemo- and haemato-) from the Greek word for "blood".

Table of contents
1 Blood of different species
2 Anatomy of blood
3 Health and disease
4 Blood in mythology and religion
5 Blood in ancient medicine
6 Physiology of blood
7 See also
8 Cultural and historical aspects

Blood of different species

There are differences in blood between species.


Human blood is a liquid tissue; its major function is to transport oxygen necessary to life throughout the body. It also supplies the tissues with nutrients, removes waste products, and contains various components of the immune system defending the body against infection. Endocrine hormones also travel in the blood. (see List of human blood components) There are about 6 quarts (or 5.6 liters) of blood in an average human body.

Human blood is red, ranging from bright red when oxygenated to dark red when not. It owes its colour to hemoglobin, a respiratory protein containing iron in the form of heme, to which oxygen binds. It is a popular misconception that deoxygenated blood is blue because veins are blue and that blood only becomes red when it comes into contact with oxygen.

Blood moves in blood vessels and is circulated by the heart, a muscular pump. It passes to the lungs to be oxygenated, and then is circulated throughout the body by the arteries. It diffuses its oxygen by passing through tiny blood vessels called capillaries. It then returns to the heart through the veins. See circulatory system for a more detailed description of this circulation.

Blood also transports metabolic waste products, drugs and other foreign chemicals to the liver to be degraded and to the kidney to be excreted in urine.


In insects, the blood (more properly called hemolymph) is not involved in the transport of oxygen. (Openings called tracheae allow oxygen from the air to diffuse directly to the tissues). Insect blood moves nutrients to the tissues and removes waste products.

Small invertebrates

In some small invertebrates, oxygen is simply dissolved in the plasma. All other animals use respiratory proteins to increase the oxygen carrying capacity. Hemoglobin is the most efficient respiratory protein found in nature. Hemocyanin (blue) contains copper and is used in crustaceans. Sea squirts, among others marine life, use a vanadium chromagen (bright green, blue, or orange) for its respiratory pigment.

In many invertebrates, these oxygen-carrying proteins are freely soluble in the blood; in vertebrates they are contained in specialized red blood cells, allowing for a higher concentration of respiratory pigments without increasing viscosity.

Anatomy of blood

Blood is composed of several kinds of corpuscles; these formed elements of the blood constitute about 45% of whole blood. The other 55% is blood plasma, a yellowish fluid that is the blood's liquid medium.

The corpuscles are:

Blood plasma is essentially an aqueous solution of Together, plasma and corpuscles form a non-Newtonian fluid whose flow properties are uniquely adapted to the architecture of the blood vessels.

The normal pH of arterial blood is approximately 7.40.

Health and disease

Blood is different in health and disease.

Wounds can cause major blood loss. The thrombocytes cause the blood to coagulate, blocking relatively minor wounds, but larger ones must be repaired at speed to prevent exsanguination. Damage to the internal organs can cause severe internal bleeding, or hemorrhage.

Circulation blockage can also create many medical conditions from cyanosis in the short term to tissue necrosis and gangrene in the long term.

Hemophilia is a genetic illness that causes dysfunction in one of the blood's clotting mechanismss. This can allow otherwise inconsequential wounds to be life-threatening, but more commonly results in hemarthrosis, or bleeding into joint spaces, which can be crippling.

Leukaemia (more often called leukemia) is a group of cancers of the blood-forming tissues.

Major blood loss, whether traumatic or not (e.g. during surgery), as well as certain blood diseases like anemia and thalassemia, can require blood transfusion. Several countries have blood banks to fill the demand for transfusable blood. A person receiving a blood transfusion must have a blood type compatible with that of the donor.

Blood is an important vector of infection. One well-known example of a blood-borne illness is AIDS, whose virus, HIV, is transmitted through contact between blood, semen, or the bodily secretions of an infected person. Owing to blood-borne infections, bloodstained objects are treated as a biohazard.

Blood pressure is an important diagnostic tool.

Blood in mythology and religion

Due to its importance to life, blood is associated with a number of beliefs. One of the most basic is the use of blood as a symbol for family relationships; to be "related by blood" is to be related by ancestry or descendance, rather than marriage.


In Judaism, blood cannot be consumed in the smallest quantity (Leviticus 3:17 and elsewhere); this is reflected in the dietary laws. Blood is purged from meat by salting (food) and pickling.

Other rituals involving blood are the covering of the blood of fowl and game after slaughtering (Leviticus 17:13); the reason given by the Torah is: "Because the soul of every animal is [in] his blood" (ibid 17:14), although from its context in Leviticus 3:17 it would appear that blood cannot be consumed because it is to be used in the sacrificial service in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Ironically, Judaism has historically been the religion to be most affected by Blood libels.


Christians believe that the Eucharist wine either is or represents the blood of Jesus Christ shed for their salvation.

Vampire legends

Vampires are fictional beings thought to cheat death by drinking the blood of the living.

Blood in ancient medicine

In the Greek theory of the four bodily humours, which dominated medicine until the 19th century, blood was associated with fire and with a merry and gluttonous (sanguine) personality. An excess was removed by blood letting or leeching.

Physiology of blood

Blood has diverse physiological roles.

Transport of oxygen in blood

The amount of oxygen dissolved in blood is directly proportional to the PO2 of the blood.

The hemoglobin molecule is the primary transporter of oxygen. 98.5% of the oxygen is chemically combined with the Hb. Only 1.5% is physically dissolved.

Transport of carbon dioxide in blood

When systemic arterial blood flows through capillaries, carbon dioxide diffuses from the tissues into the blood. Some carbon dioxide is dissolved in the blood. Some carbon dioxide reacts with hemoglobin to form carbamino hemoglobin. The remaining carbon dioxide is converted to bicarbonate and hydrogen ions. Most carbon dioxide is transported through the blood in the form of bicarbonate ions.

Transport of hydrogen ions in blood

Some oxyhemoglobin loses oxygen and becomes deoxyhemoglobin. Deoxyhemoglobin has a much greater affinity for H+ than does oxyhemoglobin so it binds most of the hydrogen ions.

See also

Cultural and historical aspects

Cardiovascular system
Heart - Aorta - Arteries - Arterioles - Capillaries - Venules - Veins - Venae cavae; - Pulmonary arteries; - Lungs - Pulmonary veins;s - Blood

Cardiovascular system - Blood Edit
Red blood cells - White blood cells - Platelets - Blood plasma
White blood cells
Granulocytes (Neutrophil granulocytes;, Eosinophil granulocytes;, Basophil granulocytes;) - Lymphocytes - Monocytes
To be filled - FVIII- vWF