Plasma-derived medicinal products
Medicinal products derived from plasma
Plasma-derived medicinal products are proteins extracted from blood plasma, which are used as therapies for the treatment of patients suffering from a range of diseases.
Composition of blood
Blood cells make up 45% of human blood, with plasma making up the other 55%. There are three types of blood cells: red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes). Plasma is the liquid component of blood and is bright yellow to light brown in color. Minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, and several types of proteins are all present in blood plasma.
Proteins from blood plasma
Several diseases are known to be caused by a deficiency of certain proteins. These proteins can be isolated from blood plasma and be used to treat patients. Various proteins, offering a range of functions, can be isolated from blood. These proteins can be divided into four categories:
- Coagulation factors: a group of proteins and platelets that are essential for blood clot formation
- Immunoglobulins: proteins that fight infection and support healthy immune function
- Albumin: a protein that helps regulate blood volume
- Protease inhibitors: proteins that inhibit certain reactions occurring in our bodies
Doctors prescribe medicinal products derived from blood plasma for treatment of approximately a hundred different diseases. Some patients are unable to produce either sufficient or the appropriate proteins and are therefore administered additional proteins from donor blood, a form of therapy referred to as replacement therapy.
Healthy individuals have a balance between the production and breakdown of the proteins they need daily. A disorder in the production of such proteins can cause a protein deficiency. Generally, this is a congenital condition, and the patient will require lifelong treatment with medicinal products derived from blood plasma, such as immunoglobulins, which are typically prescribed for patients with immunodeficiency.
Sometimes however, the imbalance is due to other reasons, such as:
- Shock: this can cause low blood supply to tissues, resulting in impaired oxygen delivery and tissue death. The interruption of blood flow could be due to blood loss (as a result of an accident or surgery) or the expansion of blood vessels (due to burns or sepsis). To restore and maintain a constant volume of blood flow, a patient may be treated with albumin extracted from donor blood.
- Anticoagulation therapy: one of the functions of blood is to form a clot when a blood vessel is damaged. However, blood can sometimes coagulate and form a blood clot (thrombosis) even when there is no damage to blood vessels. In such cases, anticoagulation therapy is prescribed to prevent this from occurring. However, if a patient receiving anticoagulation therapy suddenly suffers blood loss, e.g. as a result of a fall, lowered blood coagulation may actually pose a problem. Coagulation can then be restored using a prothrombin complex isolated from donor blood.