Blood carries various substances that must be brought to one part of the body or another. Red blood cells are an important element of blood. Their job is to transport oxygen to the body’s tissues in exchange for carbon dioxide, which is carried to and eliminated by the lungs.
Red blood cells are formed in the red bone marrow of bones. Stem cells in the red bone marrow called hemocytoblasts give rise to all of the formed elements in blood. If a hemocytoblast commits to becoming a cell called a proerythroblast, it will develop into a new red blood cell.
The formation of a red blood cell from hemocytoblast takes about 2 days. The body makes about two million red blood cells every second.
Blood is made up of both cellular and liquid components. If a sample of blood is spun in a centrifuge, the formed elements and fluid matrix of blood can be separated from each other. Blood consists of 45% red blood cells, less than 1% white blood cells and platelets, and 55% plasma.
Review Date 1/31/2016
Updated by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.