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Asian American Medical Society

The realm of blood is an interesting existence. I remember the last time when I was in a hospital, a family member was ill. Her legs became immobile. We went to the department of Urology and Neurology, but neither department found anything wrong with her. The doctor eventually suggested that the only option left was for her to go to the Department of Hematology (the study of blood). The moment when Hematology was mentioned, my uncle, who is a doctor himself and happened to be on the side, seemed unsettled. Later, in the dark hallways of the hospital, he whispered to us about why he seemed so disturbed: when you are diagnosed with a blood disease, it is normally very malignant. Now, don't get me wrong: in my opinion, no disease is truly "benevolent", because they all have the potential to cause trouble. However, some diseases are more deadly than others, and it happens that blood diseases are the more dangerous kind.

Blood is crucial to the human body. We have all learned that the human body is over 70% water. A large proportion of that water is stored in the form of blood. Blood's function includes but is not limited to pH controlling, nutrition circulation,  and immune response. There are many types of blood cells-- erythrocytes (red blood cells, or RBCs), Leukocytes (white blood cells), etc. The largest proportions of blood cells are RBCs. They are red because of the hemoglobin inside, which is used to carry oxygen around the body. This blog series is going to focus on RBCs, their development, the crucial genes that play a role in RBC development and functioning, and related diseases to malfunctioning RBCs.

The development of RBCstakes place in bone marrows, and only mature or near-mature RBCs will be released into the bloodstream. The growth cycle of RBCs starts from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), a particular cell type that can develop into any kind of blood cells. As the stem cells further develop, they will have less and less potential to develop into multiple cell types, therefore eventually becoming a specific cell type. The stage following HSCs is Common Myeloid Progenitor (CMP), which still have the potential to develop into RBCs, white blood cells, and platelets. Following this comes Megakaryocyte/erythroid progenitor(MEP), which only has the potential to become white blood cells and RBCs. Then comes two stages, Burst-Forming-Units (BFU) and Colony-Forming-Unites (CFU), which consolidate the commitment to the erythroid (related to RBC) cell line and eventually leading to proerythroblast, a large colorless cell that is the predecessor of RBC.

At the point of proerythroblast, the cells are colorless because hemoglobin has not been synthesized yet. How exactly do these proerythroblasts become mature RBCs will be posted in my next blog!

Source on RBC development:

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