Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week NEWTON Teachers Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Referencing NEWTON Frequently Asked Questions About Ask A Scientist About NEWTON Education At Argonne RBC Front Loading

Name: Stefan
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: CA
Country: USA
Date: Summer2014


Question:
Could the proportion of red blood cells in a human's blood be increased in order to provide a greater amount of oxygen? I have read that the proportion can differ by as much as 5%. Is this true, and if so, what is the maximum proportion of red blood cells to plasma that would still allow a human to function? Could the level of red blood cells in blood be used to create a more oxygenated "superhuman"?



Replies:
Hi Stefan The maximum proportion of red blood cells (RBCs) to plasma that a body could withstand would vary by individual, but with too many RBCs, the heart and blood vessels would be taxed by the thickened/less fluid blood, possibly leading to heart attacks and strokes, among other potential side effects. The more oxygenated "superhuman" already has been attempted/created, for example in endurance athletes such as Tour de France bicycle riders (Lance Armstrong among the most notorious) use of drugs (e.g., Erythropoietin) and self blood transfusion have been used to increase RBCs and maximum oxygen capacity and thus boost performance. Although such techniques are considered cheating and are strictly banned, the natural variation in RBCs among individuals has allowed some cheaters to escape detection from testing for long periods of time, and it's often facility raids and paper trails that lead to discovery of the cheating, rather than direct blood testing of the athletes.

Don Yee Ph.D.


Click here to return to the Zoology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 223
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: November 2011
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory