Think Foundation
Knowledge Centre - Blood Facts

History of Blood Donation

1657: Dr. Christopher Wren performed experiments of injecting various fluids into the veins of animals.

1665: First documented demonstration of blood transfusion between two dogs by Richard Lower.

1667: First attempt at direct human donor to patient blood transfusion by Jean Baptiste Denis in France. The result was disastrous.

1901: Dr Karl Landsteiner made the landmark discovery of blood groups. He categorized the blood groups as types A, B and O. This provided an answer as to why some transfusions worked and others failed.

1914: Development of Sodium Citrate as anticoagulants for preservation of blood.

1916: Development of Citrate Glucose that allowed blood to be stored in containers for later transfusion.

1916: Establishment of blood depots for storing blood to provide relief wounded soldiers during World War 1.

1930: First blood transfusion carried out successfully from human cadaver to human recipient in Moscow.

1930: establishment of first fully functional blood bank at Leningrad, Russia.

1940: Rhesus factor discovered in blood by Dr. Karl Landsteiner and Dr. Alexander Weiner. The ABO system and the Rh system together form the basis of blood transfusion activity.

1940: Development of preservation of Blood Plasma after separation from whole blood.

1950: Introduction of plastic bags to replace breakable glass bottles.

Blood Facts

Why is blood required?
Modern medical science is based on the availability of human blood. Blood is required by:

  • patients of genetic disorders like Thalassaemia, Haemophilia and Sickle Cell Anaemia.
  • patients undergoing major surgeries.
  • cancer patients.
  • victims of major accidents or injuries.
  • burn victims.
  • women in childbirth.

Thalassaemia Major is a serious genetic, blood disorder, which affects more than 1 lakh children in India. These children need blood transfusions regularly throughout their lives for their survival.

Where will this blood come from?
Blood is not manufactured in any factory. Artificial/synthetic blood is still in the research stage. Animal blood cannot be transfused to human beings.

Blood, is made in only one factory – the human body. Therefore, the only source of human blood is voluntary blood donation by another human being.

Who can donate blood?
You can donate blood if you:

  • are between the age of 18 and 60 years.
  • weigh more than 45 kgs.
  • have a haemoglobin count of more than 12.5 gms per decilitre.
  • have normal blood pressure, pulse rate, heart and liver condition.
  • have not suffered from any major ailment in the recent past.
  • have completed 3 months since your last donation.

Before donation you are required to fill up a Questionnaire. This is followed by an "on-the-spot" check for your weight, haemoglobin and blood pressure. You are found to be eligible to donate blood only on fulfilling the conditions of the questionnaire and the tests.

Will one become weak on donating blood?
The human body has around 4 – 5 litres of blood. Atleast 15 to 20 ml of blood per kg of body weight is a buffer stock in the human body. This blood is more than what is required for normal circulation in the body.

The total blood collected during blood donations is 350/450 ml. - a very small fraction of the buffer stock of blood in the body. And, even this donated blood is regenerated by the body on its own in a short time. The donor is fit to resume normal duties after an hour of donation.

The blood that is donated is of very little consequence to the donor, but is a matter of life and death for a suffering fellow human being.

Is it painful to donate blood?
After the initial prick of the needle, all you feel is a gentle pressure, but no pain. The entire process of donation takes less than 10 minutes. Any discomfort or problem during or after donating is very uncommon.

Is it safe to donate blood?
Yes. You will be eligible to donate blood only if you are fit and well. The needle and blood bag used to collect blood come in a sterile pack that cannot be reused. The process is therefore absolutely safe.

What should one do after donating blood?

  • Lie down for five minutes on the same cot after blood donation.
  • Keep you hand folded and limp so that the flow of blood is stopped.
  • Wait for the plaster to be fixed on the blood donation spot.
  • Consume the biscuit and coffee served to you.
  • Do not indulge in any rigorous physical activity for an hour after donation.
  • Consume lot of fluids after donation on the day you have donated blood.

What tests are done on the blood which is collected?
The blood which is collected is carried to the Blood Bank and tested for:

  • Blood Grouping
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Venereal diseases (STDs)
  • Jaundice
  • Malaria

What is component separation?
Blood is made up of the following components:

  • Red Blood Cells
  • White Blood Cells
  • Platelets
  • Plasma

Blood collected from a Donor is called Whole Blood. Ideally after collection, Blood should be immediately split up into its components. In most cases, those in need of blood, do not need Whole Blood but need one or more components. Thus, one unit of blood donated by a person can help several persons.

Components of Blood

Blood is made up of the following components:

1. Red Blood Cells
Red Blood Cells (RBCs) give the red colour to blood. RBCs have a substance called haemoglobin, which plays the role of carrying the oxygen that we breathe in, to the various tissues of the body. RBCs form almost 45 % of the total blood volume. In most cases, when a person needs blood transfusion, he/she needs RBCs.

RBCs when separated out from donated Blood are called Packed Cells. In the normal conditions existing in Blood Banks, the life of RBCs is 35 days.

2. White Blood Cells
White Blood Cells are the defence mechanism of the body. Whenever the body is subjected to attack from outside, WBCs swing into action and protect the body. They identify, destroy and remove any foreign material that has entered the body. WBCs form less than 1 % of the total blood volume.

Outside the body, when separated from donated blood, WBCs, in most cases, are of very little use. On the contrary they can be harmful to the receiver. Presence of WBCs increases the risk of adverse transfusion reaction and infection.

3. Platelets
Platelets are cells, which play the role of helping in clotting of blood. Reduction in the Platelet count can lead to bleeding.

Outside the body, when separated out from donated blood, Platelets have a life of 5 days.

4. Plasma
Plasma is the fluid part of Blood. It enables blood to flow, and plays the role of a carrier. It carries the RBCs, WBCs and Platelets. It also plays the role of carrying nutrients to the various parts of the body, and takes out the waste matter.

When separated from donated Blood, Plasma in frozen condition, called Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) has a life of upto 1 year.

Whole Blood – an outdated concept

Blood collected from a Donor is called Whole Blood. Ideally after collection, Whole Blood should be immediately split into its components. This is done by subjecting Whole Blood to a series of centrifugation. This helps in separating out the R.B.C.s, Platelets and Plasma.

In most cases, those in need of blood do not need Whole Blood but need one or more components. Providing Whole Blood to a patient has become an outdated concept, unless the situation demands so. Blood Component Therapy is the order of the day, and refers to transfusions of the specific part of the blood that the patient needs. When one considers that the storage conditions and storage life vary for each component, the importance of component therapy becomes clearer.

Providing components, as opposed to Whole Blood, has the following critical advantages:

  • One unit of blood can now benefit more than one person, with different components being given to different patients.
  • By not giving unwanted components to a patient, we reduce the risk of adverse transfusion reaction and overloading.