Plasma: The liquid portion of blood
Plasma is the fluid which transports blood cells, nutrients, hormones, and proteins through the body and is important to blood coagulation, endothelial integrity and the function of certain organs.
Major trauma, certain surgeries and various diseases cause deficiencies that may be corrected by plasma transfusion.
Uncontrolled bleeding after trauma is recognized as the leading cause of potentially preventable death among victims of trauma. Administering plasma can be critical for these patients.
Currently, most plasma is frozen soon after collection. Frozen plasma is costly and complicated to prepare, transport, store and use. The need to thaw plasma can delay transfusions by an hour or more and generally limits use of plasma to institutional settings.
As much as 30% of plasma is wasted due to breakage of brittle frozen bags and plasma that is thawed but not transfused.
Platelets, the building blocks of clots
Platelets are blood cells essential for blood clotting and trauma resuscitation.
Many diseases and their therapies (e.g., cancer and chemotherapy) impair production of or destroy platelets resulting in risk to the patient of serious bleeding. To assist the body in preventing or stopping bleeding, physicians transfuse platelets, a potentially life saving but costly blood product.
One reason for the high cost of platelets is that significant deterioration of platelets occurs (the “platelet storage lesion”) during processing and storage. The result is less effective platelets, so more units of platelets are required, increasing both clinical risk and costs.
Unlike other blood components, platelets deteriorate when stored under refrigeration and as a result are generally stored at room temperature, creating the risk of bacterial proliferation in storage. To mitigate this risk, the shelf life of platelets is generally limited to five days or less. This short shelf life creates donor logistics complications for blood processors, platelet shortages at hospitals and additional increased costs due to platelet outdating. To mitigate the risks associated with bacterial contamination of platelet pathogen inactivation/reduction technologies have been approved in many countries around the world. Although effective in eliminating bacterial risks, they are damaging to platelets. As an alternative, point of use, rapid bacterial tests are being developed to support identification of potentially contaminated units.