What are platelets?

Nikki Stephens June 25, 2019

You may know that platelets help cancer, trauma, transplant and burn patients survive and get through treatment. But there is so much more to know about them. What are platelets and what are platelets used for?

What are platelets – scientifically?

Platelets are small and colorless stem cell fragments made in your bone marrow, just like your white and red blood cells. They are disk-shaped and don’t have a nucleus.

Your body has 150,000 – 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood, and because they only live for 10 days, your bone marrow creates millions of platelets every day.

These tiny blood cells help your body form clots to stop bleeding by rushing to the site of damage or trauma (like a paper cut or a scrape) and form a plug to fix the wound.

This plug is called a blood clot and is formed by platelets spreading across the surfaces of damaged blood vessels and growing sticky tentacles that help them adhere to one another. Platelets also send out a chemical signal to attract more platelets.

What are platelets – in everyday life?

Your body’s ability to successfully stop bleeding is essential for survival. Otherwise we would bleed to death from even the smallest of paper cuts.

Sometimes the body does not make enough platelets, causing a low platelet count and the inability to stop bleeding. This could be due to illness, injury and even cancer treatments. For those people who do not make enough platelets, a small cut can lead to a dangerous amount of blood loss. 

Because of this, we ask those with blood types A+, B+, AB-, AB+ and O+ who are able, to donate platelets. Platelet donors can donate once every 7 days, up to 24 times a year.

People with the following blood types should consider donating Platelets.

Platelet donations are done using a process called automation (sometimes referred to as apheresis). Automation allows OneBlood and other blood centers to collect specific components of your blood at a larger volume.

For example, one automated platelet donation produces one or more complete platelet doses for a patient. It would take six to eight whole blood donors pooled together to produce one complete platelet unit.

At OneBlood, you can donate platelets in our donor centers and on select mobiles. Appointments are recommended for platelet donations.

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Nikki Stephens

Nikki Stephens is the Digital Marketing Manager for OneBlood. With more than 10 years of digital marketing and writing experience, her role is to enhance the organization's digital footprint through the website, social media, and digital advertising. 

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