Blood Groups Components of blood
Components of blood
Blood isnt just blood
It can be divided up into four major components which are:
Red blood cells (the little guys who carry oxygen around to
the body cells)
White blood cells (your body's defence mechanism)
Platelets (these help blood form clots)
Plasma (where all the proteins live)
When we receive your donation, it gets put in a machine called a centrifuge, spun around a lot and the blood gets separated so it can be put to its individual uses.
And what for?
Let's find out.Whole blood
This is your blood in its natural state, and something we very rarely use. It's much more useful to us to have it separated into components.
Red blood cells
This is what everybody usually associates with "blood" (ie, it's red). It's widely used to replace lost blood during surgery, or when people haemorrhage. Its main function is to carry oxygen to the tissues, using a substance called haemoglobin. Anaemia is when your haemoglobin levels are lower than normal. (Try saying that fast.) There are of course different ways of treating red cells. Generally they're all filtered to remove the white blood cells. Frozen red cells are (wait for it) frozen, to be used at a later date. This is actually an extremely expensive and time-consuming process for us, so we only adopt it for rare blood groups.
White blood cells
Think of these little guys as being like a ready-made army who go into battle against any viruses or infections that threaten your system. They get used on patients suffering from life-threatening infections whose normal defence mechanisms don't seem to be responding to antibiotics
Everybody thinks that blood is red but the truth is that it's only the red blood cells that make it appear that way. Take them away (and the other cellular components) and you're left with plasma, the fluid that carries all your blood cells. Which happens to be yellow. We process this to extract other products such as:
This protein is really useful when treating anyone who's been severely shocked or burned, or anyone who's lost large amounts of blood.
One of the major agents in plasma is Factor VIII. It may sound like sunblock, but it actually helps anyone whose blood doesn't clot properly. And if your blood doesn't clot, you keep on bleeding.
But guess what?
That's not all. Let's talk Immunoglobulins.
These are protective antibodies which form when you're recovering from an infection or have received some immunisation.
Basically they're proteins generated by your white blood cells which attack whenever any foreign proteins enter your body. They're like the emergency services who come rushing to the aid of your body when it's being besieged by foreign nasties, helping to fight them off faster.
Non-specific immunoglobulin products contain the antibodies to treat deficiencies of immunoglobulin. You know, the kinds associated with certain diseases or inherited conditions (hope you're taking notes at this point). This helps in preventing any unpleasantness like hepatitis A, and is made from the plasma from normal donors, many of whom already have antibodies to hepatitis A.
Specific immunoglobulins contain specially selected antibodies, chosen to treat a specific infection. Which probably explains why they're called specific.
For example, donors who have had chicken pox will have high levels of chicken pox antibodies. So their plasma will be ideal for children with leukaemia who have been exposed to chicken pox, and also to prevent any potentially life-threatening diseases.
And then there's the anti-D immunoglobulin which is given to pregnant women.
Full attention here, please.
If a Rh negative woman is pregnant with a Rh positive baby, some of junior's blood may enter her system during birth. Her blood may then start producing anti-D (or anti-Rh) antibodies. And if her next baby happens to be Rh positive, then her blood will go on the attack. This can be neutralised by giving her an anti-D immunoglobulin injection straight after the birth of her first baby