What is Plasma Donation?
Blood, also called as Haema in Latin, is a fluid which is transported by the heart in humans and animals. It’s main function is to carry oxygen and nutrients, transported by arteries, to the cells and to bring carbon dioxide and waste products from the cells, transported by veins. The blood in arteries is called oxygenated blood and has light red colour while the blood in veins is called de-oxygenated blood and has dark red colour.
The circulatory system of the body ensures that the oxygen is taken from lungs, which binds with hemoglobin, a type of protein in blood, carried to each cell of the body through arteries followed by collection of waste and carbon dioxide from cells by veins which is then taken back to lungs through kidney and liver. The waste is seggregated by kidney and liver through their internal processes. This flow of blood continues in a closed system with the pumping of heart.
The blood has four components i.e. RBC (Red Blood Cells or erythrocytes), WBC (White Blood Cells or leukocytes) and platelets. These three components are suspended in Blood Plasma, the fourth component. Blood in a human body makes up from 5-6 litres in volume.
A yellowish coloured liquid in which the RBC, WBC and platelets are suspended is called blood plasma. Apart from the above the plasma also has proteins, harmones, electrolytes, glucose, carbon dioxide, Oxygen etc. Out of total volume of the blood appx 55% constitutes blood plasma. And appx 95% of blood plasma is water. Plasma keeps the volume of electrolytes and other nutrients intact in the blood as it allows these nutrients to travel through the process of osmosis among the vessels. Immunoglobulin (also called Antibody), a type of protein in plasma, aids in maintaining immune system. Anothe protein, Fibrinogen, helps in clotting of blood when there is draining of blood out of blood vessels.
Antibodies are a kind of protein (also known as immunoglobulin) which is found in blood plasma. These identify the foreign matter and neutrilize it. The antibodies tag a bacteria or virus or the infected cell to help the immune system to identify and destroy it. They create memory cells within the immune system to identify the same virus or bacteria in future infection and destroy it. The antibodies are the main component of the vaccine (also called Vax) to be shot into an individual against a disease e.g. polio. The vaccine for COVID-19 is being developed around the world presently.
The technique on plasma donation, called as plasmapheresis, was developed by a Spanish scientist Dr. Jose Antonio Grifols Lucas in 1940. In this technique, the blood is drawn from the body, the plasma is separated by the machine and the blood without plasma is injected back to the body immediately. The plasma donation is considered in line with the blood groups of the donor and the patient. The blood type match is ensured before starting the process of donation. In general, blood type AB+ or AB- is considered as universal plasma donor. Usually an amount of only 500ml of plasma is drawn in one sitting. In other cases, the blood may be drawn from the body and then the various components of the blood are separated in laboratory. These may be frozen at plasma donation centers to be used at a later stage any time as per requirement.
The donation doesn’t effect the immune system of the donor as it has enough antibodies left to fight his/ her own infection. Neither it results in any kind of weakness or any after effects. The frequency of donation may vary from person to person. One of the main advantages of plasma donation is that the donor recovers from the fatigue within a short time and as the 95% of plasma is water, the body recuperates easily without loss of blood.
Utilization of Plasma Donation during COVID-19
The plasma donation is required from an affected COVID-19 positive person to be injected to a seriously affected COVID-19 positive patient. Before actual donation the tests are conducted to ensure that the donor is not suffering from any blood related disease like hepatitis B, malaria, HIV/ AIDS etc. Such donation is usually carried out almost after a month by the recovered patient. During this donation the antibodies formed by the body to fight COVID-19 infection are transferred to the seriously ill patient which benefits to strengthen his/ her immune system. This technique has been found effective in certain cases and being utilised currently in Delhi, India.