What is the Relationship Between Platelets and Red Blood Cells?

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  • Written By: Brandon May
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2019
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The relationship between platelets and red blood cells mainly centers around their involvement in the homeostatic mechanisms which control bleeding and blood coagulation. Red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, are prevented by thrombocytes, or platelets, in releasing too much volume through bleeding as a result of an injury. It is known that red blood cells carry oxygen to different areas of the body, but what has also been discovered is that cell communication occurs between platelets and red blood cells that help activate the platelets' abilities to regulate homeostasis. This research has been linked to possible new drugs which may help prevent excessive clotting of blood and even drugs used to treat diabetes and stroke patients.


When the body suffers from an injury that opens the skin and produces bleeding, platelets normally form to clot the blood and to help prevent the loss of too much blood. This shows the relationship between these structures because platelets act on the wound to help stop the bleeding, thus activating the homeostatic mechanism which tries to maintain an equilibrium and balance of red blood cell stores in the body. If the homeostatic mechanisms are not working properly and the platelets are not communicating with the red blood cells, then excessive bleeding may occur. If a high volume of blood is lost due to this occurrence, short-term anemia may develop as the body needs an adequate supply of red blood cells to help carry oxygen throughout the body.

Research has shown that platelets and red blood cells are not only connected by the way they both contribute to maintaining homeostasis within the body, but also by ways that contribute to cell communication. Red blood cells have been shown to release adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is a molecular enzyme often referred to as the energy currency of the cell. The ATP released by the red blood cells tells the platelets to produce nitric oxide, which helps regulate platelet activity and prevent excessive blood clotting. Scientists believe that this information can help improve drugs associated with diabetes and heart disease, as the research has been correlated with the proper dilation of the blood vessels and blood flow.

When too many red blood cells are lost as the result of an injury, the body is required to produce more cells to promote balanced health and equilibrium. The loss of red blood cells or the reduction of their functions may produce a condition known as anemia, as red blood cells aid in carrying oxygen to various points in the body. If anemia is of concern, a blood test may be ordered to determine the number of platelets and red blood cells currently in the body. These tests are commonly called a platelet count and a red blood cell count, and will provide a clearer idea of the current state of the body.


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