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Definition of Erythrocyte

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Erythrocyte: A cell that contains hemoglobin and can carry oxygen to the body. Also called a red blood cell (RBC). The reddish color is due to the hemoglobin. Erythrocytes are biconcave in shape, which increases the cell's surface area and facilitates the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This shape is maintained by a cytoskeleton composed of several proteins. Erythrocytes are very flexible and change shape when flowing through capillaries. Immature erythrocytes, called reticulocytes, normally account for 1-2 percent of red cells in the blood.

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Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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