Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Carriage by Normal Blood Essay

Pages: 3 (839 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Chemistry

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Respiration

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Blood Transport

Compare and Contrast Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Respiration

Human aerobic respiration involves the oxidation of glucose to form carbon dioxide (CO2), or glycolysis, and the reduction of oxygen (O2) to water. This process produces the primary carrier of cellular energy, ATP (adenosine triphospate). Oxygen is therefore required to sustain life and carbon dioxide is a waste product that must be eliminated from the body to maintain the correct pH. This essay will review the physiology of gas exchange across the most important membranes during respiration in a normal healthy adult at sea level.

Alveolar Membrane

The partial pressures of O2 and CO2 in bronchial alveoli are 13.5 and 5.3 kPa, respectively (Table 1). Although the partial pressure of O2 in air is much higher at 21 kPa, the increased temperature inside the lungs, increased partial pressure of water vapor, and the mixing between the different gases during inhalation and exhalation reduce its effective pressure. By contrast, humans are essentially CO2 factories when we exhale a partial pressure of about 3.5 kPa into atmospheric air with a CO2 partial pressure near zero.

Table 1: Partial Pressures (kPa) by Anatomic Location

Membrane Boundary



Alveolar Space


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Alveolar Capillaries



Arterial Blood



Venous Blood




< 5.3

> 6.1

Essay on Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Carriage by Normal Blood Assignment

Oxygen-depleted venous blood has a PO2 of about 5.3 kPa. At the interface between the thin alveolar bronchial and capillary membranes, the higher partial pressure of O2 inside the alveolar space leads to a rapid transfer of the gas across these membranes down a steep concentration gradient. Based on Henry's Law, the PO2 of the alveolar capillary blood as it exits the alveoli should be 13.5 kPa, but due to mixing with venous blood, the actual PO2 of arterial blood is about 12.5 kPa.

At the same time that oxygen is being transferred into alveolar capillaries, the metabolic waste product CO2 is being transferred out. Although the partial pressure gradient is much lower for this gas compared to that of oxygen, the much higher water solubility of CO2 compensates for the smaller partial pressure gradient.

Arterial Blood

The PO2 of arterial blood is about 12.5 kPa, which represents only about 3 ml/L of dissolved gas. This amount is insufficient to sustain human life. The vast majority of oxygen is transported inside erythrocytes by the hemoglobin protein, which consists of four subunits. Each subunit contains a heme or iron-porphyrin complex, which binds the oxygen molecule… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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