[KIDS] Blood: That Icky, Wonderful Thing Flowing Through You

The 27th of July is scientist Hans Fischer’s birthday. The German scientist was awarded the Chemistry Nobel Prize in 1930, for his important work on substances found in blood. In honor of Fischer, let’s talk a bit more about blood, that important, yet somewhat scary liquid that runs through your body.

What is blood made of?

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Red and White Blood Cells. Source: Wikimedia Commons

While it looks just like a red liquid, blood is made up of a combination of different things. In humans, it is made of:

a) Plasma: The main component of blood: the sloshy liquid stuff. It’s mostly water, with some proteins, food, waste and other things dissolved in it. In fact, most of your body is water. You’re just one, big bag of squishy wet stuff.

b) Red Blood Cells: Also called “erythrocytes” [eh-RITH-ro-site, impress your friends with that!]. Red blood cells give blood its color. These cells carry oxygen around the body.  To maximize the amount of oxygen they carry, they have no nucleus, which is the command center for most cells.

Red blood cells are full of a protein called hemoglobin, which is related to Hans Fischer’s research. Hemoglobin contains iron, which helps it bind to oxygen molecules.

So to sum it up, you can think of red blood cells as mindless balloon-robots!

c) White Blood Cells: Also called “leukocytes” [LOO-ko-site]. Their job is to fight off germs, cancers and other diseases. There are many different types of white blood cells that have different jobs and different ways of dealing with invaders. They can choke invaders using chemicals called antibodies. They might stab holes into them with the chemical perforin. They might even swallow the invader whole.

You can imagine white blood cells as an army of ninjas, some with high-tech tracking devices, some with poisons, and some with err…really large bellies?

d) Platelets: Also called “thrombocytes” [THROM-bo-site]. Platelets deal mainly in fixing cuts, scrapes and other wounds in the body. They do this in two main ways. First, they  throw themselves at open wounds to clog them up. Second, they sending out chemicals that cause a protein called fibrinogen to harden near the wound, creating a blood clot.

So platelets are sort of like a combination of engineer, rescue worker, and mad scientist. Exactly what you want to grow up to be, right?

What does blood do in the body?

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Blood vessels in the body. Source:BodyParts3D/Anatomography – Anatomography, CC BY-SA 2.1 jp, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35786381

Blood actually has quite a few jobs in the body!

1) Carry oxygen, food and chemical signals around

2) Carry away waste made by other cells

2) Help keep the body temperature in check

5) Fight off infections

6) Help heal wounds

7) Provide support and pressure

…and more! Blood is very important in the human body, which is why it’s so dangerous if you lose a lot of it. No wonder vampires love the stuff!

If you liked this article, you might also like this one, about vampire birds! That article also has some neat suggestions for books you might enjoy!

Where we got our info

-University of Sydney: http://sydney.edu.au/science/biology/learning/blood_composition/

-The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, edited by Adrian Friday and David S. Ingram, published by Cambridge University Press, 1985


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