hemoglobin hemoglobinmolecule

What is Hemoglobin?
       Hemoglobin is a protein component in red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the various cells and tissues in our bodies. Hemoglobin is made when two proteins are merged together. One of the proteins codes for an alpha protein, and the other one codes for a beta protein. Hemoglobin contains iron, which attracts the oxygen from the lungs.
A low supply of hemoglobin results in very little oxygen being transported to various parts of our body. This lack of oxygen will cause several cells to die, which will eventually lead to death; thus hemoglobin is extremely important when maintaining life.

This video briefly explains the importance hemoglobin and how it transports oxygen to parts of our body.

The equilibrium reaction which represents hemoglobin transporting oxygen is:
Hb4(aq) + 4O2(aq)  Hb4O8(aq)

This reaction remains at equilibrium as long as a sufficient amount of oxygen is present. A lack of oxygen, or too much of it, will cause a change in the reaction, leading to too much hemoglobin being produced, or too little.

Equilibrium Process & Outside Factors
Factors that affect the equilibrium process include:

  • Pressure
  • Temperature
  • The concentration of Oxygen

Le Chatelier’s Principle
Naturally, as air pressure is decreasing, the amount of oxygen our body is exposed to decreases. This causes the chemical system to shift to the left until it reaches its equilibrium in order to counteract the removal of oxygen.

In our tissues, there is a low concentration of oxygen. This too results in  the system shifting to the left. This process releases oxygen to help the system re-establish its equilibrium.

Temperature is also a factor that affects hemoglobin. When our body experiences a severe increase in temperature, the bonds between hemoglobin and oxygen denaturizes. This causes an increase in the amount of oxygen, and an increase in hemoglobin; causing the system to shift left.

As air pressure increases, the amount of oxygenated hemoglobin required increases. This causes the chemical system to be shifted to the right in order to accompany the addition of hemoglobin.

When there is a high concentration if oxygen in the lungs, the equilibrium will to shift to the right, to allow for formation of oxyhaemoglobin, which is red hemoglobin produced by the combination of oxygen and hemoglobin. The system will shift to the right to counteract the addition of oxygen to help the system maintain its equilibrium.

Impact on Us & Society:
Hemoglobin is considered a medical issue; hence it affects everyone in society. 
Equipment such as oxygen tanks and masks are used to help maintain the average hemoglobin level of 12.0 to 17.5 grams per decilitre. At high altitudes air pressure begins to decrease, this can be experienced by hikers when travelling up a mountain, travelling in a hot air balloon, and when on a plane. The decrease in air pressure causes a decrease in oxygen. Air pressure increases at low altitudes; divers commonly experience an increase in air pressure. Oxygen tanks are required by divers because at low altitudes, there is also a lack of oxygen. These oxygen masks and tanks when used, allow the binding between hemoglobin and oxygen to occur, and supply our cells with oxygen. A lack of oxygen results in dizziness, and mild headaches. In severe cases it can result in the death of cells.



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5 Responses to Hemoglobin

  1. Pingback: Blood: There’s more than meets the eye | The Journalist

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog. It had a lot of information about hemoglobin. How does pH affect the hemoglobin?

    • khadijahr2013 says:

      Thank you! The average pH for hemoglobin is around 7.2. If the pH were to decrease, more H+ ions will bond to the hemoglobin, replacing oxygen. If the pH were too high, more oxygen ions will bind to hemoglobin; hence a decrease in pH causes the system to shift left, while an increase in pH will cause the system to shift right. I hope this helped!

  3. abithira says:

    Hey! Your blog is very informative and detailed. Can you explain any other applications of this system besides the relationship between the divers and low altitudes?

    • khadijahr2013 says:

      Thank you! Other applications will be situations at higher altitudes, such as mountain climbing, travelling in planes, basically any situation that involves a decrease in air pressure. These situations affect hemoglobin because as air pressure decreases, there is also a decrease in oxygen. This is usually why people require oxygen tanks at high and low altitudes; they help re-establish the systems equilibrium.

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