Dr. Universe explains the purpose of blood

Our bodies have many living parts, like skin, muscle, brain and bones

  • Wednesday, April 19, 2017 1:23pm
  • Life

Why do we have blood? Where does it come from? –Norelle, Olympia, Wash.

Dear Norelle,

Our bodies have many living parts, like skin, muscle, brain and bones. Blood helps keep these parts alive and healthy. The system that moves our blood around the body is sort of like a city’s postal service, said my friend Astrid Suchy-Dicey.

Suchy-Dicey is a scientist at Washington State University who is really curious about blood. Her research helps people at risk for diseases.

She said it first helps to know that blood is actually made up of different things: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma.

If you think of your circulatory system like the postal service, mail carriers are the red blood cells. They transport important packages and letters (oxygen) over a vast network of streets and highways (blood vessels).

About a gallon and a half of blood circulates through the human body, dropping off these deliveries, 24 hours a day. The strong heart muscle pumps blood out into the body. It’s working hard, too. The force needed to squeeze a tennis ball is similar to what you need to squeeze blood out of the heart.

White blood cells help your body fight off infections. There are lots of different types of white blood cells with different jobs. Some of them fight off tiny bacteria and fungi. Some of them fight off viruses or other invaders.

All of the white blood cells’ jobs have one common mission: keeping you healthy.

Platelets help keep you healthy, too. Whenever you get a cut or scrape, these disc-shaped parts come to the rescue. Platelets help stop blood from flowing. They also help prevent you from losing blood and keep out invaders.

Plasma is a watery solution with a few other things floating in it, like salt and proteins. It flows, carrying other cells freely along those streets and highways we know as blood vessels.

As for your second question, Suchy-Dicey said that blood cells are produced in your bones. Specifically, they are produced in the soft fatty part inside your bones called bone marrow.

Your plasma is formed mostly using water you drink. That’s why it’s really important to drink enough water each day, Suchy-Dicey adds. While on the issue of water, here’s a quick activity you can try to find out about how much blood your heart pumps in a minute.

You’ll need a bucket of water, an empty bucket, and a small Dixie cup. Fill a bucket with about a gallon of water. Have a friend set a timer for one minute and see how many little cups of water you can move to the empty bucket.

Each time your heart beats it moves about a small Dixie cup’s worth of blood. It takes our heart about one minute to pump about a gallon of blood. Can you move the liquid faster than a heart? Try it out sometime and let me know how it works.

Sincerely,

Dr. Universe

Ask Dr. Universe is a science-education project from Washington State University. Submit a question of your own at askDrUniverse.wsu.edu/ask.

Follow-up video about why red blood cells look like donuts available at: https://askdruniverse.wsu.edu/2017/04/17/why-do-we-have-blood-where-does-it-come-from/

More in Life

UW diploma at 18

Gabriella Sciuchetti, of Covington, started her college career at the age of 14, majoring in aerospace and astrospace engineering.

Photo by Kayse Angel
                                The finalized prototype of the missing piece of the gate that Nathanael Junkin made to save the city money.
Pre-teen’s 3D printer helps save the city money

Nathanael Junkin, a student in Covington, recreated a missing piece of the Covington Community Park’s gate with his 3D printer.

Go home, start dinner

I’ve often heard that when people retire, they get into a funk… Continue reading

This book, like change, is a good thing

Change, they say, is good. It’s the opportunity for growth. It’s a… Continue reading

PCB concentrations from river otter scat collected at latrine sites (geometric means, lipid weights) along the Green-Duwamish River. Left of green vertical line represents Lower Duwamish Waterway. Red horizontal line denotes published threshold for adverse effects on river otters. Graph pulled from Otter Spotter website.
Otters have the inside scoop

Researchers at the Woodland Park Zoo have been examining otter scat to measure the amount of pollutants in the Duwamish River, along with other parts of Washington.

Since you’re here

I unexpectedly had the furnace guy out the other day. I messed… Continue reading

You’ll enjoy ‘Us Against You’ more if you read the prequel

You’re going down. Down, defeated, beaten, and sent home. You’re losing, not… Continue reading

Photos by Kayse Angel
Rain, sun or hail, they marched on

During the Maple Valley Days parade on Saturday, groups from all over the community continued down Witte Road with a smile on their face despite the rain.

Off the grid

My husband and I went camping to Rainbow Falls State Park from… Continue reading

Spoilers ahead: Season two did not disappoint

Diving into the new episodes of the Netflix hit.

Submitted photo from Marlo Bryant
Time flies when you’re singing

Benicio Bryant, a local teen, went to Germany to compete on The Voice Kids and became a crowd favorite.

‘West Like Lightning’ will get your stamp of approval

Click. No stamps. And: email sent. You didn’t have to hunt an… Continue reading