In the United States, people need around 29,000 units of red blood cells and 6,500 units of plasma daily. And since blood can’t be manufactured, only volunteer donors can provide that much-needed supply.
What is plasma’s essential role in the body, and how can one use it to save lives? How can people donate plasma?
This article discusses the importance of plasma in the body and explains how individuals can use plasma as a lifesaver.
The write-up also explains how people can donate plasma to help others in need of this valuable resource.
Continue reading to learn about the importance of plasma and how it can benefit a person’s health.
Plasma is an essential component of the blood and plays several vital roles in maintaining the body’s health. Understanding these roles can help people appreciate plasma better and see how valuable this blood component is.
Plasma can also help in the treatment of various chronic conditions like mesothelioma on various stages. For example, cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) may help eliminate cancer cells and heal cancerous lesions.
Such benefits can help many cancer patients, considering that many of the 1.8 million people with cancer in the U.S. need blood donations.
Plasma comprises 55% of a person’s blood. In comparison, red blood cells amount to 44% of one’s blood volume, while white blood cells and platelets make up only 1%.
Plasma plays numerous roles that help maintain the body’s function, including the following:
- Delivering nutrients and hormones to various body parts
- Helping with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide
- Redistributing water to where the body needs it
- Helping with blood clotting
- Maintaining blood pressure and circulation
- Preventing blood vessels from clogging or collapsing
- Regulating body temperature
- Transporting waste from cells to the lungs, liver, and kidneys for excretion
- Protect the body against bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections
Plasma can also carry electrolytes like potassium and sodium to the muscles and help maintain the body’s pH balance to support cell function.
pH balance measures the body’s hydrogen concentration affecting the alkalinity and acidity in the blood.
Plasma also consists of the following:
- 92% water
- 7% vital proteins
- 1% mineral salts, fats, sugars, hormones, and vitamins
Here is a list of the proteins found in plasma and their functions:
- Albumin: Prevents the blood vessel fluids from leaking into tissues and carries vitamins, enzymes, and hormones throughout the body
- Antibodies: Protects the body from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and cancer cells
- Fibrinogen and von Willebrand factor: Helps with blood clotting and controls bleeding
Because of plasma’s importance in maintaining the body’s function, one must immediately replace their lost plasma in case of blood loss due to accidents, surgeries, or bleeding disorders.
Healthcare providers usually give plasma to trauma, shock, and burn patients and those with multiple clotting factor deficiencies or severe liver disease. Doing so can increase the patient’s blood volume, which helps with blood clotting and prevents the person from going into shock.
Even pharmaceutical companies need adequate plasma supply so that they can continue making treatments for conditions like bleeding disorders and immune deficiencies.
One study explored whether convalescent plasma (plasma from people who recovered from an illness) might be a feasible treatment solution for COVID-19 patients. The theory is that convalescent plasma may contain antibodies that can help fight the virus.
The results showed that COVID-19 convalescent plasma had no association with better clinical outcomes for the patients. Still, the findings serve as a future research model for similar studies.
According to the American Red Cross, a plasma-only donation requires separating the liquid portion of the donor’s blood from the cells.
When a healthcare professional draws blood from a person’s arm, they use a high-tech machine to collect the plasma. The process takes a few minutes longer than donating whole blood because the machine has to return the red blood cells and platelets with some saline into the bloodstream.
Afterward, the plasma is frozen within 24 hours after being collected to preserve its valuable clotting capability. A healthcare institution can store the donated plasma for up to one year and thaw it for transfusion when a patient needs the plasma.
The Red Cross urges people whose blood type is AB to consider donating plasma. AB is the only blood type with universal plasma that patients of any blood type can receive.
Using AB blood for plasma transfusions allows healthcare professionals to give plasma immediately to the patient. There’s no need to determine whether the patient’s blood type is compatible.
During emergencies, having a supply of plasma from type AB donors can help save time, especially when caring for a trauma or burn patient. Having such a plasma supply readily available increases the recipient’s chances of survival.
The Red Cross usually accepts blood donations for hospital patient transfusions rather than for pharmaceutical uses. So if a person plans to donate blood for purposes other than blood transfusions, consider approaching other institutions like universities or nonprofit organizations.
To donate blood or plasma to the Red Cross, the donor can schedule an online appointment at RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-722-2767.
- Importance of the Blood Supply
- Plasma in Cancer Treatment
- The Importance Of Plasma In Blood
- Association of Convalescent Plasma Treatment With Clinical Status in Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19: A Meta-analysis
- Convalescent Plasma