What is plasma

Gold-colored plasma is the liquid part of blood and represents about 55% of total blood volume. It contains essential proteins responsible for important life functions, such as immunity and blood coagulation. 

Plasma-derived medicines are often the only possible treatment for many diseases. They include immunoglobulins for primary and secondary immunodeficiencies and autoimmune disorders, coagulation factors for bleeding disorders, and alpha-1 proteinase inhibitors to treat lung and liver disease. 

Because plasma is a naturally occurring material – it’s in our body – patients depend on the generosity of healthy volunteer donors for plasma-derived therapies. Long production cycles including rigorous quality and safety checks can take up to a year from donation to manufacturing a medicine.

Large volumes are needed. As many as 1,200 donations are required to treat just one patient with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder, during a year.

Most plasma is obtained through a process known as plasmapheresis, a technique developed by Grifols in 1951 through which plasma is separated from the other blood components, which are then reinfused into the donor.

Plasma proteins involved in treating diseases:

  • Albumin: For cardiac surgery, severe infections and many diseases including renal and liver disease; also in emergency and surgical medicine to treat shock and severe burns.
  • IVIG: Immunodeficiencies, both primary and secondary, as well as neurological disorders.
  • Alpha-1 proteinase inhibitors: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic deficiency that may result in life-threatening lung disease in adults and/or liver disease in people of any age.
  • Factor VIII: Hemophilia.