Plasma is the liquid component of blood and makes up about 55% of our blood. Blood plasma (also called human plasma) is yellowish and contains 92% water, about 1% mineral salts and about 7% proteins. These valuable plasma proteins and their diverse ingredients form the basis for the production of numerous vital medicines that save the lives of many sick people. Blood plasmacannot be produced genetically or synthetically. Therefore thousands of patients depend on the help of voluntary donors and need your support.
The human body contains about 4 to 6 litres of blood, depending on body weight. Our blood consists of solid and liquid components. The liquid part is called blood plasma. The solid, cellular components of blood are made up of red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes) and blood platelets (thrombocytes).
Divided into the individual components, the following allocation results:
Erythrocytes (red blood cells) transport oxygen from the lungs to the body cells and carbon dioxide from the organs back to the lungs. With 99%, they make up the largest volume share of blood cells. Humans have about 30 trillion of these red blood cells. Erythrocytes contain the blood pigment haemoglobin, which chemically binds the oxygen to itself. Erythrocytes are formed by the bone marrow, their average life span is about three months.
In the event of more serious accidents, injuries or internal bleeding, the missing erythrocytes must be replaced by a blood transfusion. A healthy adult can lose up to 15% of his blood volume without serious damage. However, if the blood loss exceeds 30% of the blood volume, blood must be supplied from outside, as the body can no longer supply the organs with sufficient oxygen.
Leukocytes (white blood cells) are nucleated cells in the blood that do not contain hemoglobin. They are also formed in the bone marrow and enter the blood from there. They serve to defend against pathogens and other foreign substances. In the human immune system, leukocytes take on very different functions. There are different subgroups of leukocytes:
Lymphocytes find and recognize foreign tissues and cells.
Monocytes, the large white blood cells, surround and swallow pathogens before they penetrate deeper into the body.
Granulocytes are the first attackers, which immediately render invading pathogens harmless.
The determination of the leucocyte count provides information about the presence of inflammation or infection.
Thrombocytes (blood platelets) are the smallest visible cells in the blood. They are flat blood components that are formed in the bone marrow. Platelets release substances that are necessary for stopping bleeding. In the case of an injury where blood vessels are open, a network of fibrin attaches itself to the surrounding tissue within a short time, thus closing the injury. They also release coagulation-promoting substances so that a crust is formed.
The thrombocyte count is determined by means of a small blood count using a haematology device. The blood of a healthy adult normally contains about 150,000 - 350,000 platelets per microliter (µl). A lack of platelets is called thrombocytopenia, an excess is called thrombocytosis. In cases of very large blood losses and blood cancers, thrombocytes are used in a transfusion.
Plasma serves in the body as a means of transporting metabolic products, hormones, glucose, lipids and carbon dioxide. Blood plasma transports the waste products of metabolism out of the body. These include carbon dioxide, which the organism excretes through the lungs, and various ureas. In addition, plasma can bind water-insoluble substances and transport them to the organs where the body needs them. Among other things, the proteins contained in plasma ensure that our blood pressure remains stable.
Blood plasma is usually a yellowish clear liquid. The colour of the plasma changes depending on the amount drunk, nutrition and hormone balance - but also on the protein content and other factors.
If the plasma is milky white, it is considered fatty (lipemic) and is not released for further processing. This could be the result of a disturbed fat metabolism or if the donor has eaten very fatty food immediately before the donation. You should therefore follow our tips for preparation before donating to ensure that this does not happen.
Even if the blood plasma is reddish in colour, it is not used if red blood cells have burst and decomposed (haemolysis). However, many discolorations are harmless, as medication or food supplements can be the cause. Ultimately, it can only be decided in the course of our multi-stage quality control whether the plasma is released for further processing.
More than 80% of all Austrians are dependent on medication made from blood plasma at least once in their lives. And more and more people need medicines that are produced from human plasma.
Human plasma contains more than 120 different proteins, such as antibodies for the defence against infections (viruses, bacteria, pathogens) or coagulants, which stop bleeding in case of injuries and are responsible for wound healing. Other active substances, in turn, inhibit excessive coagulation and thus prevent dangerous blood clots.
Still other components of plasma are used to prevent and treat measles and hepatitis. In addition, blood plasma plays an important role in the treatment of various types of cancer such as leukaemia..
About 5 million of the 60 million litres of plasma donated worldwide are processed into pharmaceuticals in Austria. The worldwide demand for immunoglobulins (IgG) alone has increased from 47.4 tons in 2000 to 197 tons in 2018.
There is no substitute for blood plasma in surgery, emergency medicine and in the treatment of many serious illnesses. Over 20 proteins can be isolated from plasma for the production of drugs. The properties of these proteins can be used for specific medical purposes and processed into vital drugs.
The most common proteins dissolved in blood plasma include:
These proteins in the blood plasma form the basis for the production of highly effective drugs against various diseases.