We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Hemoglobin?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Hemoglobin is a protein-based component of red blood cells which is primarily responsible for transferring oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It is actually the reason red blood cells appear red, although oxygen-rich blood is noticeably brighter than the depleted blood returning to the heart and lungs. Fresh hemoglobin is produced in the bone marrow as needed.

The creation of this component is controlled by a complicated genetic code. Because unborn babies obtain their oxygenated blood from their mothers and not their own lungs, two separate substances called hemoglobin alpha and gamma combine with several nitrogen atoms and one iron atom. This allows the fetus to receive oxygen-rich blood without respiration. Once the infant is born, however, the body replaces the gamma with a new variant called hemoglobin beta. The combination of these two substances continues for a lifetime.

Essentially, hemoglobin develops a hunger for oxygen molecules. When the blood is carried into the lungs, the proteins, which contain iron atoms, attract whatever oxygen is available. This oxygenated blood then travels throughout the entire bloodstream, releasing oxygen into the muscles and organs. The spent red blood cells are transferred to the gastrointestinal system for disposal and new red blood cells take their place in the bloodstream.

This ongoing system of hemoglobin proteins obtaining oxygen from the lungs and delivering it to the cells is based on ideal conditions, however. Sometimes the alpha or beta proteins produced by the genetic code are not perfectly formed, as in the case of sickle cell anemia. One of the components is shaped like a sickle, causing an imperfect bond to form.

Anemia means that the red blood cells lack sufficient levels of iron. Without an iron atom, the damaged hemoglobin pigment cannot attract oxygen in the lungs very effectively, if at all. The result can be a slow wasting process leading to complete body dysfunction.

Hemoglobin can also be compromised by blood conditions such as diabetes or cancer. Many standard blood tests included a general check of hemoglobin levels. The amount of glucose in the bloodstream may vary from hour to hour, but an examination of this component often provides a more accurate reading for diabetics.

Another difficulty with hemoglobin is its affinity for gases other than oxygen. It is 200 times more attracted to carbon monoxide than oxygen, for example. This means that someone breathing in carbon monoxide from automobile exhaust could be replacing the oxygen in their lungs with a poison. If enough hemoglobin is exposed to carbon monoxide, the result could be the same as asphyxiation. Cigarette smokers who regularly breath in carbon monoxide could compromise as much as 20% of their total lung oxygen supply.

This attraction to other gases can actually be beneficial under controlled circumstances. It is also attracted to gases used during anesthesia proceedings before surgery. The nitrous oxide or other breathable anesthetic is carried into the brain through the hemoglobin, which allows the surgical team to control the patient's level of consciousness. As oxygen is reintroduced into the patient's lungs, the pigment refreshes itself and the other gases become waste products.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon297693 — On Oct 16, 2012

If a person's white and red blood cells are low, his platelets are low and his hemoglobin is low, what could this be a sign of?

By anon4795 — On Nov 01, 2007

what is immune-hemoglobin and where does it come from?

By anon4080 — On Oct 02, 2007

is carboxyhemoglobin a type of hemoglobin? why is the hemoglobin level low but the hematocrit level is normal.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.