Life-Cycle of the Red Corpuscles of the Hen


THE life-cycle of the mammalian red corpuscles is not known with certainty. Values varying between 30 and 200 days are recorded. One would expect the problem to be easily solved by making use of an isotopic indicator, that is, by labelling the corpuscles. In trying to find a suitable indicator, great difficulties are encountered due to the fact that almost every compound present in the corpuscles is renewed at a comparatively rapid rate. Only such labelled molecules which have a longer life-time than the red corpuscles in which they are located can be used as indicators. Iron atoms incorporated with hæmoglobin molecules remain unchanged during the life-time of the red corpuscles1. Hahn and his colleagues2, however, found that the iron atoms contained in the debris of the hæmoglobin of decayed corpuscles are preferentially used in the formation of new corpuscles. This fact makes radioactive iron unsuitable for the determination of the life-cycle of the red corpuscles.


  1. 1

    Hahn, P. F., Bale, W. F., Ross, J. F., Hettig, R. A., and Whipple, G. H., Science, 92, 131 (1940).

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  2. 2

    Hahn, P. F., Bale, W. F., and Balfour, W. M., Amer. J. Physiol., 135, 800 (194142).

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HEVESY, G., OTTESEN, J. Life-Cycle of the Red Corpuscles of the Hen. Nature 156, 534 (1945).

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