How to Set Up a Blood Plasma Laboratory
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A blood plasma laboratory extracts, processes and analyzes plasma, the liquid portion of blood. Plasma products are used in medical treatments for shock, trauma, injuries and other purposes. A blood plasma laboratory must be equipped with the right equipment and follow regulations accurately to collect viable plasma that can be used for treatments.
Blood Laboratory Certification
In the U.S., the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulate all laboratory testing for people, including blood-collecting labs. This government body regulates new and existing blood labs to ensure that they are set up according to national standards, perform quality laboratory testing and follow all safety procedures. Before setting up your blood lab, contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to obtain all the necessary requirements and certifications.
Collecting Blood Plasma
Blood that is collected in a regular tube or vial will begin clotting almost immediately, as plasma contains platelets, which induce clotting. This means that the blood will change consistency, separating into serum. To prevent this, you will need to obtain anticoagulant tubes, which are treated with a chemical that stops the blood from clotting. Alternatively, you can use an anticoagulant chemical that is added to the collected blood to stabilize it and prevent clotting. Unless the blood specimen is going to be analyzed within 20 minutes of collection, be sure that your lab has a refrigerator to safely store all samples.
Plasma Separation Methods
Your lab should be capable of processing the tubes or vials marked for plasma collection to separate the blood cells. You can equip your lab with the conventional method for separating plasma from red and white blood cells, which is to use a centrifuge. This small, simple laboratory machine spins tightly sealed tubes or vials of blood at high speeds for about 10 minutes to separate the cells from the plasma. The denser blood cells fall to the bottom and the plasma layer rises to the top. A pipette is used to immediately remove the purified plasma from the rest of the blood cells. You will also need stabilizing chemicals that prevent the purified plasma from separating further.
Plasma Storage and Analysis
Life Technologies recommends that plasma samples be maintained at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius while handling, and frozen at -20 degrees Celsius to keep them viable during storage or transport. Hence, if your lab is transporting plasma samples, you will need to purchase a specialized truck that contains a sealable refrigeration unit. If your blood lab will also analyze collected plasma samples, you must have the correct equipment and trained staff to do so. One method to do this is to purchase mass spectrometry equipment. This analytical technique identifies the amount and type of components in a plasma sample by measuring the ratios of mass, charges and gases. A review published in Critical Reviews in Biomedical Engineering notes that component analysis of blood is key to the detection of diseases. The separation and processing of plasma is critical for accurate diagnosis in patients.
Laboratory Safety Specifications
Blood can harbor biological risks such as viruses and must be handled cautiously. You must ensure that safety regulations for all patients and staff in a blood plasma laboratory are strictly enforced and regularly checked. Also, make sure that your lab is equipped with gloves, masks and other protective gear for all employees. The disposal of "sharps," such as needles, as well as used tubes and vials, must be done according to national regulations to prevent accidents. You can use a daily laboratory safety checklist such as those provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to be certain that nothing is missed.
- Deaconess: Specimen Collection & Handling
- University of Rochester: What Is Plasma?
- Critical Reviews in Biomedical Engineering: Plasma Separation from Blood: The 'Lab-On-A-Chip' Approach
- CMS.gov: Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)
- Cancer Informatics: Impact of Freeze-thaw Cycles and Storage Time on Plasma Samples Used in Mass Spectrometry Based Biomarker Discovery Projects
June Kane is a Registered Radiation Therapist (RTT) and radiotherapy instructor from Manitoba, Canada. Her writing experience includes peer-reviewed articles in the Lancet and Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Therapy, patient information booklets and website content, and student curriculums.
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