The liver creates bile, a digestive enzyme that contains a reddish-yellow compound called bilirubin. This compound is responsible for the distinctive yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes seen in people with jaundice. It also causes the typical yellowish tint associated with a healing bruise. High or low levels of bilirubin in the blood may indicate liver disease and can be dangerous to infants and those with comprised immune systems.
Heme is an essential component of hemoglobin, a complex protein found in red blood cells. The breakdown of heme turns it into bilirubin. The hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues, then swaps the oxygen for carbon dioxide, transporting it back to the lungs. Eventually, the red blood cells die and leave behind bilirubin. The liver's primary function is filtering the blood, and this includes disposing of bilirubin through feces and urine.
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