Many people don’t realize the true importance of blood products and transfusion medicine, and how commonly these lifesaving procedures are administered to trauma victims, cancer patients, combat personnel and to people in scores of other scenarios. The next time you’re in a crowded room, consider that, on average in the U.S., about 1 in 60 people you see might not be here if not for the availability of these lifesaving methodologies.
“Blood products and transfusion medicine help save the lives of about 4.5 million people every year in the U.S. alone—nearly everybody has a friend or loved one whose medical outcome was enhanced by this technology,” explained Trace Bates, Sales Development Representative for the Thermo Fisher Scientific Laboratory Products business. “My own brother suffered a terrible head injury in a car accident and I’d hate to think what would have happened if he wasn’t able to receive transfusions to replace the blood he was losing. It no doubt saved his life.”
Bates and Mark Sanita, National Sales Manager, Clinical Markets, are proud that the Thermo Fisher products they represent are so vital to helping fulfill the company Mission of making the world healthier, cleaner and safer, as well as so deftly embody the Laboratory Products tagline “Essential to Science.” In fact, they note, our products are so foundational and entrenched in the blood technology space that it is a “statistical certainty” that anyone who has received a blood product received one that was processed, manufactured or maintained using a Thermo Fisher instrument or product—or, more likely, several.
Multiple workflows, multiple product lines
The blood products market is divided into two key workflows. The process usually starts with the collection and preparation of blood products from donors. In the U.S., for example, this takes place in one of the several thousand blood centers or mobile units, with most affiliated either with the American Red Cross, Blood Centers of America (BCA) or Vitalant (formerly Blood Systems Inc.).
The second workflow usually takes place in a setting related to a hospital, surgery center, battlefield, accident site or other location where a patient is in need of a life-sustaining transfusion, and the blood is prepared for administration.
Each workflow has numerous steps to ensure the functionality, safety and integrity of the blood. After blood is taken from donors at blood centers, key blood products—such as red blood cells, platelets and plasma—are usually separated using a centrifuge. Then, depending on the needs of the material, each is cold treated in an appropriate manner for storage and shipping. At the transfusion facility, blood products must be meticulously stored in temperature-controlled facilities and tested pre-transfusion, for example using the ubiquitous Coombs antibody test (to test for conditions that may breakdown red blood cells).
“People often think ‘it’s just blood,’ but transfusing blood person to person is really very similar to transplanting an organ person to person—with many of the same risks and many of the same life preserving potentials,” noted Bates. “Every step of the process is carefully mandated and needs to be carefully controlled to ensure an optimal outcome.”
Thermo Fisher manufactures a number of the key instruments used in the processes, as well as many of the consumables and accessories, including:
- Blast freezers
- Plasma freezers
- 4°C blood bank refrigerators
- Tabletop centrifuges
- Transfer pipettes
- Nalgene™ saline wash bottles
- Nalgene unwire racks
- Water baths
- -80°C ultra-low temperature freezers
- pH meters
- Cell washers
- Thermo Scientific™ NERL™ Blood Bank Saline products
Numerous product innovations
Thermo Fisher is the leader in many vital product areas, and our products are unique in this space because of their depth and breadth, providing most key pieces of equipment and accessories to their markets. In addition, our products often provide advanced features that can help improve patient care.
For example, the Laboratory Products business not only provides a level of product quality that has helped it earn some 90% of the centrifuge market, but with their recent release of the Thermo Scientific Sorvall™ BP 8 Blood Banking Centrifuge, they’ve raised the bar even further. According to Sanita, the capacity of the new instrument is unmatched, with an enhanced level of throughput provided in a minimal footprint. The BP 8 also offers the proprietary Thermo Scientific Accumulated Centrifugal Effect (ACE™) function, which automatically adjusts running time to account for variations in acceleration to help achieve consistent, reproducible results in each run. No wonder so many blood centers have standardized on Thermo Fisher equipment, and major blood facilities have recently replaced their centrifuge fleets with the BP 8.
Another innovative product standout, they point out, is our line of blast freezers. Delicate blood products such as plasma must not only be kept frozen but must be brought down to very cold temperatures very quickly to preserve their integrity and effectiveness. Thermo Fisher blast freezers can get life-saving blood products down to -40°C in a fraction of the time of even ultra-low temperature freezers. And, speaking of low temperature innovations, Thermo Fisher has been recognized for the effectiveness of its large military plasma red cell freezer, providing fast field access to large quantities of properly maintained glycerated red cells. The product is credited with helping achieve high survival rates in mass casualty situations. The Laboratory Products busines is also known for its cell washers, which have semi-automated the Coombs test to help get blood to the transfusion patient faster and ensure accurate results time after time.
As vital to the life-giving workflows of transfusion medicine as their products are, Bates and Sanita are quick to point out that none of it would be remotely possible without another type of “manufacturer”—perhaps the most important link in the transfusion medicine chain.
“I can’t stress how important it is to donate blood,” said Sanita. “The life you help save could be that of your mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or best friend. Or even your own.”
 American Red Cross
 American Association of Blood Banks