What is the material that enables animal hemoglobin to
The careful arrangement of the protein (hundreds of amino acids long) and
the four iron atoms in it. If the protein is off by one amino acid it can
radically change the molecules ability to carry oxygen properly...sickle
cell anemia, has only one amino acid change out of hundreds.
Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Senior Science Advisor
Office of Science
Department of Energy
That would be iron.
Hemoglobin is a protein holding an iron atom in such a way that a molecule
of oxygen from the air attaches to it. The oxygen is only weakly attached
to the iron atom, so that when the hemoglobin is carried to a relatively
oxygen-poor environment inside the body, the oxygen molecule detaches and is
taken up by the cell waiting to receive it.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012