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breakdown or destruction of red blood cells so that the contained hemoglobin is freed into the surrounding medium. Antibody (lysin) attaches to the red cell but cannot cause bursting in the absence of a normal blood component called complement. Apart from normal breakdown of aged red blood cells, hemolysis is abnormal in the living but may be caused by inherited defects in the blood cells (e.g., hereditary spherocytosis, thalassemia), by chemicals, venoms, the toxic products of microorganisms, transfusion of the wrong blood type, or Rh incompatibility of fetal and maternal blood, a condition called erythroblastosis fetalis. It is a major finding in hemolytic anemia.