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From Blood to Nerve Cells— A New Medical Breakthrough

Over the years, the human blood has been proven to have a huge importance in the everyday treatment of various illnesses, thus saving millions of lives across the globe. Its components— red blood cells, plasma, and platelets— have become helpful instruments in battling numerous diseases and injuries.

The red cells from a donated blood can help in the treatment of cancer, anemia, heart disease, kidney disease, fractures, and stomach disease. Red blood cells are also used in open heart surgeries, joint replacements, obstetrics (women who are pregnant or just gave birth, as well as young children), and even situations where trauma is involved, especially in road accidents.

Plasma and platelets, on the other hand, are used in several medical problems as well. Plasma is known for its ability to prevent bleeding, as well as treat burns, trauma, and blood diseases. Platelets are essential in helping patients with low platelet count, as well as blood clotting and repairing of damaged body tissues.

All of these contributions are already well-known to mankind, but did you know that there is a new medical breakthrough that can change the future of medicine and the way we look at blood? Read on and discover how the human blood can benefit us to a whole new level.


From one cell to another

Just recently, a group of Canadian scientists have discovered a new potential use of the human blood— in the form of nerve cells.

Mick Bhatia, director of McMaster University’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, led the team of scientists that figured out how to convert a body component into another one. Through their findings, they learned that a blood sample can actually be turned into nerve cells, which include those that are accountable for numbness, pain, and other body sensations.

“Nobody has ever done this with adult blood, ever,” says Bhatia. “Now we can take easy-to-obtain blood samples and make the main cell types of neurological systems— the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system— in a dish that is specialized for each patient.”

Bhatia also explained that with this groundbreaking discovery, producing essential cells in the body is now possible. “We can actually take a patient’s blood sample, as routinely performed in a doctor’s office, and with it we can produce one million sensory neurons that make up the peripheral nerves in short order with this new approach.”

“We can also make central nervous system cells, as the blood to neural conversion technology we developed creates neural stem cells during the process of conversion,” he added.


The birth of blood-derived nerve cells

This revolutionary discovery was achieved by scientists using a new technique, which involves stem cells being extracted from fresh and frozen samples of adult blood and umbilical cord. These cells are usually the ones which can become red blood cells, or different kinds of white blood cells responsible for battling pathogens.

After the extraction, these stem cells are converted to neural stem cells for about a month, using a patented technique. Then, they are manipulated into various types of nerve cells— including those which can be found in the peripheral nervous center throughout the legs, arms, and the rest of the human body.

“We take a cell whose identity— its name, address, what it does as a blood cell— we tell it to forget all of that, and we educate it to become a neural cell,” explains Bhatia, comparing the process to converting a lawyer into a surgeon, which is a completely different profession.

“It’s literally a re-education process. We convert the cell completely to a different fate,” he added.

Bhatia’s team estimates that they can create approximately 100 million sensory neurons with just 50,000 adult blood cells, which can cost a donor less than a drop of his/her blood. Now, think about how many sensory neurons scientists can generate with one bag of donated blood.


New pain killer in town

Because of this sensational discovery, Bhatia and his team have made new medical advances that will benefit researchers and patients all over the world.

For example, they have paved the way for researchers to test and study potential medicines for pain and other conditions of the nervous system. With millions of generated nerve cells, it could be possible to create a treatment for pain that is similar to the patient’s genetic signature.

In line with this, their aim is to discover a new drug that is different from usual narcotics and opioids. They hope that the results of their study would bring out a whole new level of medicine that specifically targets the damaged neurons in the peripheral nervous system and not the brain and the whole central nervous system, as doing so causes the body to unwillingly experience unusual— sometimes addictive— side effects.

“You don’t want to feel sleepy or unaware, you just want your pain to go away,” says Bhatia. “But up until now, no one’s had the ability and required technology to actually test different drugs to find something that targets the peripheral nervous system and not the central nervous system in a patient-specific or personalized manner.”


For disease and beyond

Aside from hopefully producing a new potential drug that could be used to eliminate pain without giving the user a hard time in exchange of the relief he/she will be getting, Bhatia and his team also hopes to achieve more medical innovation with their latest discovery and patented technique.

First, they are expecting to further develop these blood-derived nerve cells into different kinds of neurons that could be transplanted into patients to reestablish healthy brain cells, which will be helpful in the treatment of various diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Bhatia and his team also have their eyes on the possibility that retinal nerve cells could be produced out of this technology, which will greatly benefit people who are losing their eyesight due to macular degeneration that comes with aging.

Indeed, the future looks bright in the field of blood and medicine.

The Lowdown on Platelet Products

Blood, as red and plain as it looks, is not just a simple human liquid. It is actually composed of many components responsible for the whole safety of the body. Each component contains essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals that have individual purposes and effects in the overall health status of our body. These parts are identified as red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets.

Although it is only less than 1% of the human blood (and it is sharing a position with white blood cells), platelets are just as important as the other components of the blood. Also called thrombocytes, platelets are colorless like plasma, and they help in the prevention or complete halt of bleeding. These small cell fragments are very instrumental in various medical procedures, such as organ transplants, cancer treatments, or surgery. And, unlike other blood components— which can be stored for more than 20 days to a full year— platelets can only be stored for five days, in room temperature and with constant agitation to prevent possible clumping.

Just like plasma, platelets are also used in lifesaving products that are very helpful in patients of various diseases. This article will serve as a product guide to people who want to know what platelet-derived products, methods, and medications are there to aid in their ailments.



Platelets can be turned and used into various products for patients with different kinds of illnesses. The following are some of the most recognized platelet-derived products:

Frozen platelets

Once out of the body and separated from the blood, platelets can be cryopreserved— a common method used to preserve cells or tissues by freezing them at very low temperatures— at negative 80 degrees Celsius for up to ten years, in 6% dimethylsulfoxide or DMSO. Frozen platelets serve as the only alternative to fresh platelets.

Cold liquid platelets

These are platelets which are stored at room temperature (22 degrees Celsius) for up to five days. As of the present time, three approaches are used to store cold liquid platelets: slowing down cytoskeleton actin assembly or using antifreeze glycoproteins to prevent the shape changes which are often seen in chilled platelets, and making use of ThromboSol as a cryoprotectant to give better retention of in vitro function.

Photohemically-treated platelets

This kind of platelet-derived product is being used clinically in Europe, and is effective in deactivate bacteria, protozoa, and viruses by destroying their DNA.

Lyophilized platelets

Although the effective and positive result of lyophilized platelets in humans has not been proven yet, they have shown hemostatic effects in thrombocytopenic animals, such as rabbits and rats. Because of the fixation step in processing lyophilized platelets (they are fixed by 1.8% paraformaldehyde and freeze-dried with 5% albumin), they have been proven to kill microorganisms and increase their own shelf life.

Platelet-derived microparticles

Platelet-derived microparticles can come from outdated platelets, and can be stored for up to two years at four degrees Celsius. This product can be used to patients who are unresponsive or resistant to conventional transfusions of platelets.

Culture-derived platelets

Culture-derived platelets have not been proven to do any positive results in patients yet, but further studies and research are still ongoing. However, these platelets— which were the result of a laboratory experiment in 1995, which involved growing platelets from megakaryocyte progenitors— have been declared to be similar to fresh platelets.



Aside from the platelet-derived products mentioned above, there are also substances known as platelet-derived growth factors or PDGF. These are released from platelets during the formation of clot. PDFG has many variants, and the following are from human platelets (all in lyophilized powder form):

Platelet-Derived Endothelial Cell Growth Factor

Platelet-derived endothelial cell growth factor, or ECGF1, is the one responsible for promoting angiogenesis in vivo and stimulating the in vitro growth of various endothelial cells. It is also the angiogenesis of colon cancer in humans.

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-AA

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-AA, or PDGF -AA, is one of the three growth factors with Escherichia coli (E. coli) as the recombinant host. PDGF -AA is used for cell culture applications.

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor -BB

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor -BB is the other PDGF with E. coli as the recombinant host. PDGF -BB mediates the tropism of hMSCs (human mesenchymal stem cells) for malignant gliomas.

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-AB

Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-AB is, simply put, the combination of Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-AA and Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-BB. It is also used for cell culture applications.



There is a new gel in town!

Aside from the growth factors and platelet-derived products mentioned above, there is a new medical breakthrough that involves human blood platelets: the platelet gel.

Platelet gel facts

Basically, it seems like a usual healing gel that a patient will apply on the infected area of his/her body. But, what sets it apart from other medication gels is the fact that it contains platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which is a concentrated mixture of substances that is very essential in healing.

How platelet gel works

This platelet gel, which is widely known as the Magellan Bio-Bandage, works by copying the final stage of clotting. The PRP activates platelets, turns fibrinogen to fibrin, and encourages platelet aggregation. Then, calcium chloride is included to counteract the anticoagulant citrate, therefore creating a glue-like texture that is rich in platelets.

Uses of platelet gel

The gel has been thought to improve healing and serve as a barrier against potential infection.  Currently, it is being used in the following:

  • various studies addressing thermal burns
  • post-surgery sternum repairs
  • cosmetic surgery
  • hip-bone injury healing
  • controlling of unsuturable bleeding sites
  • oozing diffusion connected with redo open-heart surgeries
  • macular hole surgery



By this time, it is normal to think about the wonders of the body, especially the human blood. Just think of the many, many lifesaving options you have inside your body!

The human blood alone is swarming with various health components that can benefit not only you, but also millions of patients around the world. Plasma, which is widely recognized, is definitely one of them, but do not forget platelets. They may only comprise less than 1% of the blood, but when processed and strengthened, they are powerful enough to save lives.

From Plasma to Products: Various Human Plasma Solutions

Blood is a real lifesaving bodily fluid— not only for people who have an ample volume of healthy blood flowing through their veins, but also for those who have lost so much and now in desperate need of clean blood that could ultimately save their lives and help them regain their strength and energy.

Aside from the common knowledge about blood donation (one person gives his/her own blood to a licensed institution, then that blood will be transfused to another person who needs it), the human blood given in donations is also used in developing, creating, and manufacturing various therapies and medicines— specifically its dominating component, which is plasma.

Plasma, the clear liquid which makes up 55% of the human blood, has been— and is still being— used for several lifesaving medications. In this article, you will discover what these products are and their benefits to those ailing people who need immediate and guaranteed recovery.



Plasma, when extracted from the body, can serve many purposes. Once out of the system and into the bag, it is broken down into important substances that will eventually lead to three plasma product types: immunoglobulins, human albumin solutions, and coagulation factors.


Immunoglobulins are essential antibodies that are part of the immune system, which is, as we all know, is the body’s natural defense against all kinds of diseases and illnesses. They are the ones responsible for warding off various infections, viruses, and bacteria.

These components are divided into two parts: specific and non-specific.

Specific immunoglobulins are often used to develop products that are given to patients who have been exposed to certain infections. Some examples of products derived from specific immunoglobulins are the antidotes to rabies, hepatitis B, tetanus, and chickenpox. The anti-D immunoglobulin, a product which is given to rhesus-negative (RhD negative) pregnant women to prevent them from becoming sensitive to their baby’s blood, is also a perfect example of a specific immunoglobulin product.

Non-specific immunoglobulins are often used for people who are having problems producing their own antibodies. Whether by birth or because of certain treatments (which make them incapable of making good antibodies), some people need non-specific immunoglobulins to make up for their faulty immune system.

Human albumin solutions

Albumin is an important component of plasma. It is responsible for cleaning the blood, maintaining the right amount of fluid around the body, and carrying vital substances in the body. It is also the dominant protein in plasma.

Solutions made out of human albumin are helpful in treating various illnesses and accidents, such as:

  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • burns
  • sepsis
  • incorrect level of body circulation

Coagulation factors

Coagulation (or clotting) factors are plasma proteins that function with platelets to clot blood. They aid in controlling bleeding and ensure that the blood clots properly.

Clotting factors can be used for treatments concerning bleeding/blood clotting disorders, such as hemophilia. People with this kind of illness can be treated with replacement therapy, wherein it will replace a certain missing clotting factor.



Aside from the three main types— and the products that can be derived from them— mentioned, there are other products that were made possible by plasma.

Heparin anticoagulant

Heparin is an anticoagulant substance that is used to prevent blood clot formation during or after a certain surgery. It is also used as a treatment for different circulatory, lung, and heart disorders with a higher risk of blood clot formation.

Antihemophilic Factor

Like clotting factors, antihemophilic factors are used to aid proper blood clotting. It is put inside the body either by vein injection or addition in an intravenous fluid that will drip through a needle in your vein.

Anti-Inhibitor Coagulant Complex

Like other plasma products, the anti-inhibitor coagulant complex is used to control bleeding, especially in patients with hemophilia A and B during surgery. It has vital substances that help the blood clot and stop bleeding. It can be given by means of powder for solution.

Antithrombin (Recombinant)

A recombinant antithrombin is used to prevent perioperative and peripartum thromboembolic events in patients with hereditary antithrombin deficiency. Its function is to regulate the inflammatory process and blood clotting.


Corifact is an FXIII concentrate that is used for routine prophylactic treatment and perioperative management of bleeding in surgeries for adults. It is also intended for patients with congenital FXIII deficiency.

Kcentra (Prothrombin Complex Concentrate, Human)

Kcentra is used for acute major bleeding therapies, urgent surgery cases, and immediate reversal of coagulation factor deficiency received by a patient.

Protein C Concentrate (Human)

Protein C Concentrate is used for treatment and possible prevention of purpura fulminans and venous thrombosis in patients who suffer from congenital Protein C deficiency. It is also used as a replacement therapy for treatment of warfarin-induced skin necrosis that is acquired during oral anticoagulation.


Medicines and injectable proteins are not the only beneficial things that indirect recipients of your plasma could be thankful for. Another product that can be developed out of the plasma in your body is fresh, frozen plasma.

So, how does this work?

When you donate blood, a special machine will process it and separate the plasma from your blood. Then, it will be frozen and stored until a patient that requires a plasma transfusion comes along. When that happens, your fresh, frozen plasma will be thawed under controlled conditions and will be transfused to that patient who is in need of your lifesaving plasma.

Frozen plasma is intended for multiple reasons/medical cases, such as:

  • multiple coagulation factor replacement for patients who suffer from liver disease deficiencies
  • replacement therapy for patients undergoing liver transplant or cardiac surgery
  • plasma exchange with patients who have thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)
  • treatment of bleeding that is caused by multiple factor deficiencies
  • treatment of people with coagulation factor deficiencies
  • treatment of patients with rare plasma protein deficiencies
  • replacement of labile clotting factors and other proteins


Plasma is a very helpful component. Once transfused to a patient’s body, it will serve a very good purpose. But, be careful with the side effects. Some of the harmful effects of plasma transfusion are acute lung injury, haemolysis, anaphylactic and allergic reactions, and even the dreaded Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Consult your doctor very well before a plasma transfusion.

Stories of Plasma Heroes

In medical terms, when we come across the word “donate,” the first thing that comes in our minds is whole blood donation. To the untrained and unfamiliar eye, it may seem as if full blood is being donated all the time. The truth is, most of the time, it is not.

Aside from whole blood donation, people also give blood components individually, such as platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, and of course, plasma. In this article, we are going to focus more on the latter component, which is mainly what makes up blood itself.



First of all, what is this thing we call plasma?

Actually, the human blood is composed mostly of plasma, taking up 55% of it. It is a clear, pale yellow liquid that contains important antibodies, proteins, enzymes, and salts that are essential to the overall good health of the body.

Plasma regenerates faster than blood, so donors of this component are free to donate as often as twice a week— which is, of course, after they have gotten enough rest of about 48 hours.



Being a known component of blood, plasma is regarded for its importance and contribution to the medical field. The elements found in plasma are proven to have great benefits to people who are suffering from various illnesses or psychological damage.

Plasma protein therapies (PPTs) are great examples of how helpful plasma is. These therapies are developed from human genes, and can aid in several medical treatments, such as:

  • Burn, shock or trauma (human serum albumin)
  • Hepatitis, rabies/tetanus, fetal complications (hyperimmune globulin)
  • Blood clotting
  • Hemophilia
  • Antithrombin deficiency



Donating plasma sounds like— and totally is— a good thing. More people should consider giving some of their plasma to those who truly need it.

But, as much as hospitals and blood banks want more plasma, there are still limitations as to who should donate plasma… and who should not.

Also, the volume of plasma to be donated should also be monitored. Even though plasma rebuilds inside the body quickly, the amount to be given should still be controlled.

Donor limitations

The age limit for potential blood donors is 17 years old (minimum) and 69 years old (maximum), though it varies in some states and countries. In other areas, there is no maximum age limit for plasma donors and 16 year-old teenagers are allowed to donate— as long as they have a parental consent.

The donor’s weight is also important in plasma donation. The limit is 110 pounds (minimum), and this is the general weight rule in most places.

Other limitations include those concerning unfit lifestyle (tattoos, piercings, etc.), medical history, travel history, and current health state.

Plasma limitations

While it will be good to the society to have abundance in the supply of plasma, there are still some limitations to donating this blood component.

First of all, donors should not give plasma more than two times a week— especially for frequent plasmapheresis, or the process of separating plasma from the blood. There should also be a 48-hour interval between donations, which means that you cannot donate for two consecutive days. This adds up to a total of 104 plasma donations in a year.

There is also a maximum limit as to how much plasma a donor can give. According to the US Food and Drug Administration or FDA, the collection volume of donated plasma varies, depending on the donor’s weight.

Here is a more specific basis, with the anticoagulant volume included in the total collection volume of each weight:

  • 10-149 pounds -> 625 mL (plasma volume) -> 690 mL (collection volume)
  • 150-174 pounds -> 750 mL (plasma volume) -> 825 mL (collection volume)
  • 175 pounds and above -> 800 mL (plasma volume) -> 880 mL (collection volume)



Despite of all the safety measures that hospitals and blood banks implement to carefully select who among the world’s population can donate plasma, there are still many kindred spirits who pass the tests and screenings.

The best part is, there are people who go out of their ways to prove that they can be heroes on their own rights. These are the people who exceed expectations— and plasma donation count.

Richard Burke

On June 2004, Burke set a new record when he donated his 1,411th unit of blood and made his 1,193rd blood donation.

Burke started donating in 1975, and since then, he has been doing apheresis— which is the process of separating certain components of the blood from itself.

He still holds the title until now, with an equivalent of 634.95 liters of blood donated.

James Harrison

Dubbed as the “man with a golden arm,” Harrison has been donating plasma since he was 18 years old. Now in his late seventies, he is still giving his lifesaving plasma to people who need it the most.

As a result, he had achieved a new milestone— on May 2011, he made his 1,000th donation.

That is not the only thing Harrison— and the whole world— can be proud of. Since his first donation in 1955, he has been giving a rare tonic of blood plasma that was eventually used to create and develop a vaccine. This is now known (and sold) as Rho(D) immune globulin, which has saved more than 2 million newborn babies’ lives.

Rho(D) immune globulin is a real lifesaving vaccine, but it is only efficient when prepared with blood from a donor who has rare antibodies in plasma, like Harrison. Because of this, he can still be seen donating blood every seven to ten days.

Peter Ray

An Australian war veteran, Ray just made his 800th blood donation on August 2012.

He started donating blood when he was just a 16 year-old apprentice in the Navy, and every two weeks, he donates plasma at Perth Blood Donor Centre.

Adding to his achievements is the fact that Ray is one of the 36 West Australian donors whose plasma is used to create Anti-D, which is a very special product that aids in preventing a disease known to newborn babies as Haemolytic Disease.

Terry George Price

A security guard from Denton, Texas, Price’s eyes are set on winning the Guinness World Records title for blood donation-aphaeresis.

Sixty years old and still going, Price has been donating to BioLife Plasma for a long time.  He has donated 1,000 times since his first time on May 2001, and has given 887.73 liters of plasma. While admitting that he is doing it for the money, he said that he stayed loyal because he is helping other people, as well.



Like the plasma heroes mentioned in this article— and many more— you, too, can become a one-of-a-kind hero.

Donate your plasma and make a difference!