Plasmapheresis was a great step forward for the development of plasma protein medicines, and thus very much part of the foundation of Grifols' business. It remains an essential technique which is widely used around the world.
Reducing the health risk
It's also a procedure with negligible health risks for donors. In its early days, however, technical limitations meant that plasmapheresis was not as safe as it is today. The chief problem was that reinfusion of blood cells and platelets occurred hours or even days after the original extraction of whole blood. The time needed to centrifuge the donation of whole blood was four or five hours, due in part to the centrifuging process being separate from the extraction process. Usually, donors received the cells and platelets from their previous donation. If they came on a weekly basis, they got reinfused with the cells and platelets separated the previous week.
An innovation that is still in use
In 1965 Víctor Grífols developed a faster centrifuge to perform the plasmapheresis right next to the donor, on their bed, meaning that cells and platelets could be reinfused immediately after they had been extracted.
The result was that donation, separation and re-injection could take place in the same place. Even more crucially, for the first time the three steps were effectively integrated into one seamless process. Once a donor left their bed, they did so with all their blood cells, leaving only their plasma behind.
Not surprisingly, the device was patented in various countries and for several years. Víctor Grífols added more as he improved the apparatus, which in 1967 took the name of Monofuge. Continuous centrifuges in use today are based on its principles, and a testament to the power of innovation to overcome health risks.
Immediate reinfusion of blood cells and platelets
made plasmapheresis the tried and true method it is today