Plasma – A Source of Medication and Inspiration
Research in the Sheffield laboratory focuses on plasma, the liquid component of the blood. Plasma components regulate hemostasis, and plasma is the only product of whole blood processing that can be readily frozen, thawed and transfused.
Why is this important?
Understanding the biological functions of plasma components and their efficacy in the regulation of hemostasis can provide insight towards the development of better transfusion practice and more efficient utilization of donated plasma.
Plasma is usually transfused in patients to prevent or stop excessive bleeding. We investigate the use of transfusable plasma as a biological medication by testing its ability to support in vitro clotting, or to suppress bleeding, in mouse models. We compare these results with those obtained with proposed alternatives to transfusable plasma, such as prothrombin complex concentrates (PCC) – a plasma protein product. To facilitate this work, we have created a mouse model of global plasma protein deficiency to test the role of various plasma components in regulating coagulation. Our results led us to propose that high fibrinogen levels, not FVIII levels, in the transfused plasma, more reliably reduce bleeding. We also investigate the ability of plasma or PCC to reverse the anticoagulant properties of ‘blood-thinning’ drugs. Such intervention is necessary when a patient on blood thinning medication requires emergency surgery. Our research in this area has shown that, for some oral anticoagulants, PCC is superior to plasma transfusion to achieve reversal. For other anticoagulants, neither plasma nor PCCs were effective. These findings correlate well with clinical studies and provide further evidence on the best use of plasma and plasma protein products. We have also investigated a potential antidote.