11 May 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
This dengue season, you don’t have to go frantically looking for blood donors to save your loved ones, nor buy expensive platelet kits. In a move that will come as a major boon for family members not knowing where to arrange for the life saving platelets, doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences have found a rich new source of platelets– buffycoat..
Buffycoat is a layer in our blood as tiny as 1% of total volume of blood that till now was completely overlooked but was recently found to be highly rich in platelet content.
Doctors at AIIMS, just like they stock up blood in banks, are now separating the buffycoat layers from normally donated blood and saving the platelets for future use.
The advantage– patients in AIIMS will get platelet as and when they want it without facing any shortage during peak dengue months. What’s best, the platelets will come for free. At present, family members of dengue patients needing plattelets have to first undergo HIV, Hep B and C tests to prove their blood is safe and check their haemoglobin count. They have to then donate blood and purchase a single donor platelet kit that costs nearly Rs 6,700.
In comparison, platelets derived from the buffycoat layer of four units of donated blood is equivalent to a single such kit. Infusion of one kit increases platelet count by almost 50,000 in a patient within minutes.
“Most of the patients who come to AIIMS are poor and come from outside Delhi. They can’t afford a platelet kit nor go looking for people to donate blood. We have therefore started the production of platelets from whole blood donations. Patients from now on in AIIMS will get platelets for free at any time they want,” said faculty in charge of AIIMS’ blood bank Dr Kabita Chatterjee.
The buffycoat method of platelet production is widespread in western countries. “We didn’t start it till now. We actually didn’t know that this layer was rich in platelets,” Dr Chatterjee said.
With this production method, whole blood donations are taken in room temperature and platelets are processed within six hours of collection. The whole blood is spun and the plasma and red blood cells are both extracted, leaving the buffycoat layer which contains leukocytes and platelets.
The buffycoats from four donations are then put into a sterile connecting device pooled together. The platelet is then extracted through a leukoreduction filter to produce a pooled platelet concentrate.