Red blood cells (RBCs), also called erythrocytes, are the most common type of blood cell and the vertebrate organism's principal means of delivering oxygen (O2) to the body tissues—via blood flow through the circulatory system.
RBCs take up oxygen in the lungs or gills and release it into tissues while squeezing through the body's capillaries.
The cytoplasm of erythrocytes is rich in hemoglobin, an iron-containing biomolecule that can bind oxygen and is responsible for the red color of the cells. The cell membrane is composed of proteins and lipids, and this structure provides properties essential for physiological cell function such as deformability and stability while traversing the circulatory system and specifically the capillary network.
In humans, mature red blood cells are flexible and oval biconcave disks. They lack a cell nucleus and most organelles, in order to accommodate maximum space for hemoglobin. Approximately 2.4 million new erythrocytes are produced per second in human adults.
The cells develop in the bone marrow and circulate for about 100–120 days in the body before their components are recycled by macrophages. Each circulation takes about 20 seconds. Approximately a quarter of the cells in the human body are red blood cells.
Red blood cells are also known as RBCs, red cells, red blood corpuscles (an archaic term), haematids, erythroid cells or erythrocytes (from Greek erythros for “red” and kytos for “hollow vessel”, with -cyte translated as “cell” in modern usage). Packed red blood cells (pRBC) are red blood cells that have been donated, processed, and stored in a blood bank for blood transfusion.