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Plasma is the fluid part of the blood in which the blood cells and the platelets are suspended. Plasma is a sticky fluid that is 95% water. The other 5% is composed of the many substances that are dissolved within the plasma. These include nutrients, proteins, waste products and hormones. Nutrients are the substances needed by the body's tissues to sustain their normal function. The principal nutrients are sugars, fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. All of these are dissolved within the plasma, then delivered to each cell within the body. The primary proteins in the plasma serve either as part of the clotting mechanism, as part of the immune system or as transporters for nutrients.

Plasma is the main medium for the transportation of substances throughout the body. It carries nutritive substances to the body structures and removes their waste products. Plasma also makes possible chemical communications within the body by transporting hormones.

Plasma may be given by transfusions to patients who have lost serum through burns. It also may be used to treat shock or disorders in which protein is lost from the body.

Plasma fractions are the different proteins that can be extracted from the blood plasma and used to treat various disorders. For example, gamma globulin can give temporary protection against some diseases, such as measles; antihemophilic factors may be used to prevent bleeding in hemophiliacs; and albumin may be used in the treatment of nephrosis and liver cirrhosis.

© 2006. American Red Cross. Connecticut Blood Services Center.