Overview: About Blood

Blood is the fluid that transports oxygen and nutrients around the body. An average adult has just under 5 litres of blood circulating around their body.

Blood is made up of the following four major components:

  1. Red blood cells – their main role is to transport oxygen
  2. White blood cells – the cells of the immune system which defend the body against infections
  3. Platelets – important for blood clotting and tissue repair
  4. Plasma - the liquid part of the blood which carries the blood cells and other substances around the body

Visit Fresh Blood Products to understand more about these components and their use. 

Product tree of all blood products distrbuted in Australia

About blood donations

Approximately one in 30 people in the Australian community donate blood.

A blood donor can provide a whole blood donation, or can donate only the plasma or platelet component of their blood through a process known as apheresis. See the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website for more detail about donating blood.

About blood products

As illustrated in the diagram above, blood donations collected are separated into components so that they can be supplied to meet clinical need. The following are the major Fresh Blood Products:

  1. Red blood cells
  2. Platelets
  3. Plasma components:
    • Clinical fresh frozen plasma
    • Cryo-depleted plasma
    • Cryoprecipitate

Plasma is also used to manufacture other products. Proteins can be isolated from plasma by fractionation processes, and can be made into products to treat specific diseases. For example, clotting factors such as Factor VIII and Factor IX are used to treat haemophilia A and B respectively. Immunoglobulins (Ig) are used by the body to protect against infections. Intravenous (IV) delivery of immunoglobulin (IVIg) is used to replace and/or modulate a person's immune response in a wide range of conditions, such as primary immunodeficiency and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. Visit Plasma and Recombinant Products for more information on fractionated plasma products and their use.

Some blood products are manufactured from non-human components using genetic engineering. These are called recombinant products and are alternatives to some fractionated plasma products. For example, recombinant clotting factors are increasingly used in place of plasma-derived clotting products to treat people with haemophilia. Visit Plasma and Recombinant Products for more information on recombinant products and their use.