System: Lymphatic (infection fighting)
Location: Left hand side of your body, between your stomach and diaphragm
Physical description: Fist-shaped
Function: Cleaning your blood, destroying old red blood cells and fighting infection.
Your spleen acts as a filter for your blood, cleansing it of bacteria, viruses and other debris. When blood flows through your spleen, white blood cells attack and remove any foreign invaders. This keeps your blood clean and helps protect you against infection.
Destroying old red-blood cells
Red blood cells have a lifespan of around 120 days, after which your spleen breaks them down. The red blood cell remains are transported elsewhere in your body where they are excreted or recycled to manufacture new red blood cells.
Making blood cells
Before birth, foetuses produce red and white blood cells in their spleens. Shortly before birth the spleen loses its ability to make red blood cells and bone marrow takes over this job.
Living without a spleen
It is possible to live without a spleen as most of its functions can be taken over by other organs. However, people without spleens are more vulnerable to all kinds of infections.
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