By Dr Caroline Hilton
What is plasma used for?
It is helpful to investigate exactly what plasma contains to understand why it is such an extraordinary product. Plasma is the liquid part of blood that carries super important proteins, like clotting factors and antibodies. Multiple different products can be made from plasma donations through a process called fractionation. (Fractionation is a separation process in which a certain quantity of a mixture is divided into a number of smaller quantities.)
Clotting factors are essential proteins made in the liver that help blood clot, thereby stopping bleeding. Without clotting factors, a person could literally bleed to death. People can be born with genetic conditions that prevent certain clotting factors from being made in the body (like haemophiliacs), have liver problems that shut down clotting factor production, lose clotting factors from excessive blood loss or fluid leakage (such as severe burns), or have medical states that consume clotting factors. If a patient needs replacement of clotting factors for any of these reasons, they will require plasma products.
Antibodies are a vital part of our immune system and are responsible for fighting infection. There are medical conditions where patients are unable to produce antibodies or need additional antibodies to help fight an infection or illness. It has also been found that more and more autoimmune and neurodegenerative conditions appear to be responding favourably to antibody treatment. This has resulted in a huge international demand for plasma collections in order for more therapeutic products to be made to help these patients. If you want to know more about how plasma products continue to help save a 20-year-old’s life, you can read Bella Cunningham’s story here.
Have you heard of source plasma donation?
It involves your blood being drawn into an apheresis machine, part of your plasma removed, and the remaining blood returned to you. This results in a plasma product of about 650ml, which is a great way for those incredible antibodies and clotting factors in your blood to be harnessed and given to a patient in need. And don’t worry; your liver and white blood cells replace these proteins in a flash, so you are not harmed in any way! We are particularly interested in plasma from Group AB donors, as this is reserved for babies, but any donor is welcome.
This donation usually takes 25-45 minutes and can be done at our fixed blood donation clinics. If you are interested in donating sourced plasma, please make a booking by sending a WhatsApp message to 060 549 7244.