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What’s in a Cell?

February 24, 2012 at 9:58 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

Usually living cells have a nucleus where the chromosomes and DNA live, and a number of other organelles that are involved in making energy, proteins, repairs to itself, etc. But our little red blood cell (RBC) friends selflessly throw all of that away when they grow up to have more room for lots of hemoglobin molecules that bind to oxygen, then take all that oxygen to other tissues of the body. This selfless act leaves our RBCs with a diminished life span (just 120 days) because they can't repair themselves.


Some Facts About Malaria

February 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "About 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. The vast majority of cases in the United States are in travelers and immigrants returning from countries where malaria transmission occurs, many from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia."


How Did RBCs Evolve?

February 3, 2012 at 9:20 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

Ill-conceived blood transfusions go back to the 1600's (disastrous transfusions of lamb's blood into humans), and the discovery of the ABO system goes back to the early 1900s. But just how old is blood itself? A picture from the Smithsonian in 2009 showed a red blood cell (RBC) in the soft tissue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex bone from 68 million years ago.


Benefits of Blood Transfusions

January 20, 2012 at 9:28 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

A unit of blood does so much for patients in need. The gift of life is donated, tested, processed and sent to hospitals' transfusion service departments where more important work is done to ensure it is compatible with the recipient.


Tiny Phlebotomists

December 2, 2011 at 8:21 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

Historically, certain species of leeches have been used in medicine for blood-letting. These tiny phlebotomists were used in areas that were "too sensitive or confined for the lancet or other blood-letting instruments" like the gums, lips, fingers, and nose.


Sickle Cells

November 4, 2011 at 11:10 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

Sickle cells are abnormally shaped red blood cells (RBCs) caused by a mutation of the hemoglobin gene (Hgb S). Their less flexible, sickle-like shape leaves them unable to get through small capillaries, resulting in obstructed blood vessels in many organs. In addition, because of this sickle shape, the RBCs are sequestered and destroyed in the spleen at a faster rate than normal cells.


Rarest ABO Type – Bombay Phenotype

October 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

Just in case the excitement of the ABO blood group system was beginning to subside, there is one other very, very rare ABO type first described in India. It is known as the "Bombay phenotype" and on the surface it looks like a type O. It is found in one out of 10,000 people in India, and one in a million in Europe.


Shark Antibodies

October 7, 2011 at 11:04 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

It turns out that sharks are not just robust killers of the ocean but that they have robust immune systems, too. Who knew? They rarely fall prey to infections and are exceptionally resilient. According to studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, their antibodies can attach themselves to human cancer cells and actually stop them from spreading. It may also be possible that their antibodies could be used to fight other conditions such as malaria or rheumatoid arthritis.


ABO Mutations

September 30, 2011 at 8:00 am
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

You may have heard of geometric shapes that are infinitely complex like clouds or snowflakes, but there's also our complicated little ABO (blood group) system.


Your White Blood Cells at Work

September 8, 2011 at 2:11 pm
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By Billie Rubin, Hemoglobin's Catabolic Cousin, reporting from the labs of Stanford Blood Center

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Many of us are familiar with the role of red blood cells (RBCs) in taking oxygen throughout the body via the hemoglobin molecules they have inside, and of our platelets' ability to help prevent bleeding through creating clots. But white blood cells (WBCs), our immune system warriors, are a little more mysterious. They make up a complicated system of T-killer cells, T helper cells, antigen-presenting cells, antibody-producing cells, plus others. When a unit of un-coagulated whole blood is spun down to separate components, the white blood cells appear, creating a thin, white layer between the plasma and RBCs.