A Quick Look at the Three Effective Plasma Fractionation Techniques Used Today
Plasma fractionation is an important technique used in the medical therapeutics industry. In this procedure, the proteins present in plasma are segregated and therapeutic products are produced from them for better targeting of various diseases and ailments. For this, both chemical and physical techniques are used; however, over the years, three mechanical plasma fractionation techniques have grown in popularity owing to their effectiveness and relatively quick results.
Medical research being carried out during World War II was conclusive enough to show that albumin was one of the most important components of human blood and could be used effectively to stop incessant blood loss and consequently save a person’s life. During this research, Edwin Cohn, the lead scientist at the Harvard Medical School, devised a methodology that proved to be so efficient that it is still used today. Plasma or blood fractionation, as it is known, was instrumental in saving thousands of lives during the Second World War and has been a crucial element of medical therapies in today’s world, especially during manufacturing of various therapeutic products. In fact, growing use of plasma proteins like immunoglobulins in various fields of medicine is one of the primary growth factors of the global plasma fractionation market in recent times.
What is Plasma Fractionation and What are the Methodologies Involved?
Plasma fractionation, in the simplest of terms, is a medical procedure which involves separating different components of blood plasma. Since blood plasma forms around 55% of human blood, many times, the term ‘blood fractionation’ is alternatively used for plasma fractionation. The ultimate objective of plasma fractionation is breaking down of blood plasma into its individual components, i.e., plasma proteins so that they can be injected or administered to the patient depending on his/her medical condition. Over the years, 20 vital plasma proteins have been identified out of which albumin, immunoglobulins, protease inhibitors, and coagulation factors are considered to be the most important.
As said earlier, plasma and blood fractionation techniques that were devised during the 1940s are still being used with some minor changes. One such methodology of separating blood plasma components is changing the chemical properties of these compounds, say, for example, changing their solubility. However, the most common techniques of plasma fractionation are mechanical separation methods of centrifugation, depth filtration, and chromatography. These methods, rather than relying on the chemical properties of plasma compounds, depend on their mechanical and physical properties.
Centrifugation involves using centrifuges and centrifugal force to separate the individual plasma proteins. Since the density of each individual component is different, application of G-forces helps in segregation of plasma proteins. Also, precipitated plasma proteins have a higher density and hence, they remain in the centrifuge, while on the other hand, liquid and soluble plasma proteins are forced out due to their lighter density. In the last few years, the scope and application of centrifugation has increased manifold, because of which two types of centrifuges have come up in the market- multi-chamber centrifuges for large scale plasma fractionation and tubular centrifuges for limited amount of plasma fractionation.
Depth filtration is another popular method of plasma and blood fractionation wherein unique filters are used which block plasma proteins throughout the entire medium rather than only on the surface of the filter. This is done by adding multiple porous filter layers and placing them together, so that the filtration layers present obstacles to the flowing liquid throughout the channel and help in retaining the solid particles effectively. Depth filtration is mainly used for large scale plasma fractionation.
Technological Advancements in Plasma Fractionation Methodologies
One technique which has risen tremendously in popularity as far as plasma fractionation is considered is chromatography. Technological advancements in the field of chromatography have the potential to catapult the plasma and blood fractionation industry ahead. Techniques like packed bed chromatography have not been that effective for blood fractionation as the volume of plasma proteins is too large. However, expanded bed absorption chromatography has shown some promise for large scale blood fractionation, though the methodology is highly expensive. With more and more players of the blood fractionation industry taking up manufacturing of chromatography apparatus, the cost of expanded bed absorption chromatography is sure to go down in the near future. This will help in the overall expansion of the plasma fractionation market in the coming period.
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