The radioactive isotope of iron Fe59 is metabolized by the human organism exactly as ordinary iron and, when fed to or injected into persons with the hypochromic anemia of iron deficiency, is incorporated into the hemoglobin of newly formed erythrocytes.1 Once built into the hemoglobin molecule of an erythrocyte, radioactive iron does not exchange with the iron of the serum or the tissues2 but remains within the red blood cell during its entire lifetime and is liberated only when the cell is broken down and destroyed. The physical property of radioactivity does not influence the morphologic aspects or the function of the erythrocyte in any way but serves to "label" or "tag" the cell during its lifetime. It is possible to detect quantitatively the radioactive iron of such labeled cells even though they may be mixed with thousands of cells containing no radioactive substance.3
ROSS JF, CHAPIN MA. EFFECT OF STORAGE OF CITRATED BLOOD ON THE SURVIVAL OF TRANSFUSED ERYTHROCYTES. JAMA. 1943;123(13):827–829. doi:10.1001/jama.1943.02840480027008
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