Therapeutic Applications of the Four Main Blood Components


In the human body, blood is one of the most vital elements which perform several important functions. A whole blood composition is essential for a healthy body. All the four components of the blood, i.e., plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, have their specific important functions in the body. While on its own, each blood component also serves as a treatment for a wide range of rare and life-threatening diseases. For instance, plasma protein therapies treat rare, chronic diseases such as primary immune deficiency diseases, neurological disorders, and hemophilia.

Over the years, the significance of blood components in treating certain diseases has been recognized. This treatment, known as “blood transfusion,” allows several patients to benefit from the therapeutic value of the blood components. The appropriate use of blood and blood products in the transfusion process can treat a condition leading to a significant ailment that cannot be prevented or managed effectively by other means.

However, transfusion also carries the risk of adverse reactions and transmission of infections such as HIV, hepatitis viruses, syphilis, malaria, and Chagas disease carried in the blood being used for the therapy. Hence, it is essential to maintain a safe supply of blood units in the healthcare system.

Blood Supply Chain in Healthcare

The increase in demand for blood components is due to the rising burden of primary immunodeficiency diseases such as hemophilia A, von Willebrand disease (VWD), and secondary immunodeficiency diseases. Moreover, the increasing number of cancer cases and organ transplant treatments are also adding to the growing demand for the blood and blood components in healthcare facilities. However, there is a significant gap between the demand and supply of healthy blood units in the market.

To cope with this challenge, initiatives taken by the major players in the global blood and plasma components market to expand and launch more blood and plasma collection centers across the world to fulfill the supply of blood and plasma are expected to fuel the growth of the blood component therapy.

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Four Major Blood Component Therapies

The blood components are used differently for different ailments and according to the needs of the patients. This article further explores the most common and essential blood component therapies in detail. Following are some of the therapies that need blood components:

Blood Plasma Therapy: Plasma comprises the largest portion of blood components at approximately 55%, with the remainder red blood cells (44%), white blood cells, and platelets (1%). It is a clear, yellowish, and liquid portion of blood that comprises 90% water, proteins, and other cellular components. In the body, the function of plasma is to transport cells and nutrients from one part of the body to the other, thereby performing many important physiological functions such as blood clotting and immune responses.

For treatment purposes, it is collected from healthy adults via a process known as plasmapheresis. This is an extracting process that can take 7–12 months; different proteins are fractionated from the donated plasma and converted to different protein-based therapeutics. As the proteins are isolated from donated plasma, there are no substitutions available to them. Hence, protein plasma therapies are classified as the sole-source biological products.

The protein plasma therapies are used to treat people with critical conditions such as primary immune deficiencies (PIDs), bleeding disorders, hereditary angioedema, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and a few neurological disorders. Generally, plasma transfusions replace missing or deficient proteins. It is administered through injection or infusion on a repeat basis.

Red Blood Cells Transfusion: In the body, the function of red blood cells (RBCs) is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The deficiency of RBCs causes anemia, which makes people feel tired and may have trouble catching breath. When the RBC count in the blood is too low, the doctors recommend a red blood cell transfusion. This is the most common type of blood cell transfusion.

Blood transfusion

Patients suffering from chronic anemia resulting from kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and people with acute blood loss resulting from trauma are treated with RBC transfusion. It can also be used to treat blood disorders such as sickle cell disease.

Red blood cells are extracted by removing the plasma from the blood composition. Sometimes this is done after a person donates a unit of whole blood, resulting in multiple components (red cells, plasma, and platelets) that can be used for different purposes.

White Blood Cells Transfusion: The function of white blood cells (WBCs) in the body is to fight infection and act as a defense system of the body against diseases. WBC transfusions are given to patients suffering from life-threatening infections whose normal defense mechanisms don’t seem to be responding to antibiotics.

White blood cells are also known as granulocytes. In the case of serious and life-threatening infections that do not respond to appropriate antibiotics, a patient may have low levels of granulocytes. In some cases, a transfusion of granulocytes is used for a short time to help the patient fight infections.

WBC transfusions are rarely used as it has high-risk side effects. It is also not clear how well they work to reduce the risk of infections. Instead, doctors prefer to use drugs called colony-stimulating factors or growth factors to help a patient’s own body produce more WBCs.

Platelets Transfusion: Patients with a low platelet count tend to bruise and bleed easily. This condition is called thrombocytopenia. A platelet count of less than 10,000 per microliter of blood, or the presence of bleeding, is considered low enough to need a platelet transfusion. But each person reacts differently to a low platelet count.

However, over time platelet transfusions can become less effective. That is why doctors may recommend other methods to prevent bleeding and avoid too many platelet transfusions.

Conclusion

As discussed, the whole blood and its components have immense therapeutic value and can save thousands of lives. Hence, a healthy person is always encouraged to donate blood, which helps in keeping the blood supply chain optimum. As the inappropriate or unsafe use of the blood or blood components can be highly dangerous for the patients, the doctors create a very selective blood donation process, and only people meeting the criteria for blood donation can donate the blood.





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