Blood: The Stuff of Life

Blood: The Stuff of Life


Melis Anahtar
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) Program
Cambridge, MA

Lesson Feedback


The purpose of this lesson is to teach students about blood and its components while instilling an appreciation of its importance for survival. The lesson takes a step-by-step approach to determining the "recipe" for blood while introducing students to important laboratory techniques like centrifugation and microscopy, as well as some diseases of cell types found in blood. It also highlights the importance of donating blood by explaining basic physiological concepts and the blood donation procedure. There are no formal prerequisites, but students should be comfortable with converting weight units. The only materials needed are a calculator and paper, and it would be helpful to print the downloadable color PDF files of blood smear images. During the breaks, students are asked to estimate and then calculate the amount of blood in their body, identify cell types in a blood smear, and discuss the composition of blood with their neighbor. The lesson can be completed within a 50-minute class session.

Instructor Biography

Melis Anahtar is currently an MD-PhD student in Harvard Medical School’s HST Program. She completed her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering with Biomedical Engineering from MIT in 2008, and her Masters degree in Integrated Immunology from Oxford University in 2009. Read more about Melis here

Additional Online Resources

YouTube: What is Blood?
This video, sponsored by America’s Blood Centers, provides a vivid representation of what makes up blood.

Vitalant: Frequently Asked Questions by Blood Donors
"56 facts" available at Blood Center of the Pacific site

YouTube: Oxygen Transport
This video is a very nice illustration of oxygen transport by red blood cells.

American Red Cross: Blood Donations 
This site, by the American Red Cross, has valuable information on blood donations, particularly for student donors.