The Stanford Parkinson’s Disease Plasma Study

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Researchers in California have been conducting a different kind of Parkinson’s clinical trial. Rather than testing a drug or a special diet/exercise regime, they have been giving participants in their study a regular infusion of plasma.

If you remove all of the cells from blood, the yellowish liquid that remains is called plasma. In medicine, plasma is usually used to boost a patient’s blood volume to help reduce shock. But recently researchers have been experimenting with giving older individuals infusions of plasma collected from young individuals to see if this has any beneficial effects.

A group of researchers at Stanford University have been leading a study examining the safety of infusions of plasma (collected from young people) in a cohort of individuals with Parkinson’s. This week they published the results of their study.

In today’s post, we will discuss what plasma is made of, why young plasma may help in neurodegenerative conditions, and review the results of the new study.

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Source: KhanAcademy

There are three chief components of blood:

  • Red blood cells
  • White blood cells
  • Plasma

Red blood cells carry oxygen to distant parts of the body and they also remove carbon dioxide. And by volume, the red blood cells constitute about 45% of whole blood. White blood cells are the immune cells, fighting off infections etc. And they – this may surprise you – make up only 0.7% of whole blood.

That might sound like a tiny fraction, but understand that within a single drop of blood (50 ul) there are approximately 5 million red blood cells, and 5,000 to 25,000 white blood cells.

Apologies to the squeamish. Source: Science

And in total the human body contains about 4.5 litres (or 1.2 gallons) of blood. That’s a whole lot of drops. Plenty of white blood cells to help keep us healthy.

And what about plasma?

Plasma is the stuff that all of the red and white blood cells sit in. It has a yellowish tinge to it, and it makes up the other 54.3% of whole blood.

It contains 92% water and 8% ‘other stuff’.

Apologies for the very technical term (‘other stuff’), but there is a great deal of interesting stuff in that ‘other stuff’.

What do you mean ‘interesting’?

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