The spleen is an organ in the upper far left part of the abdomen, to the left of the stomach.  The spleen varies in size and shape between people, but it’s commonly fist-shaped, purple, and about 4 inches long. Because the spleen is protected by the rib cage, you can’t easily feel it unless it’s abnormally enlarged.

The spleen plays multiple supporting roles in the body. It acts as a filter for blood as part of the immune system. Old red blood cells are recycled in the spleen, and platelets and white blood cells are stored there. The spleen also helps fight certain kinds of bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis. (from WebMD)

Image from Laskowski, Sigismond (b. 1841).  Anatomie normale du corps humain: atlas iconographique de XVI planches. [Genève: Braun, 1894].

The spleen removes old red blood cells and act as a blood reservoir.  It recycles iron.  In the spleen, the hemoglobin is metabolized and degraded to its constitutive amino acids.  The heme portion is metabolized to bilirubin which is then sent to the liver for removal.  In the white pulp area, it synthesizes antibodies and removes antibody-coated bacteria.  Half of the body’s monocytes are found in the red pulp.  Monocytes move to injured tissue and turn into macrophages and dendritic cells and assist in wound healing.

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