AUSTIN (KXAN) — Amid rising inflation rates and financial strains, some plasma centers are seeing increased interest in paid donors.

CSL Plasma operates donation centers in both Austin and Round Rock, offering up to $1,000 for the first month of donations. Rhonda Sciarra, director of communications for CSL Plasma, told KXAN that there has been an upward trend in donor interest.

“In general, we are seeing more plasma donations – in part due to donors appreciating the payments they receive to help with additional costs, but we also are seeing a seasonal increase in donations and donors returning after the impact of COVID-19,” she said in an email.

How do plasma donations work?

Plasma is the liquid portion of a person’s blood, and accounts for roughly 55% of blood, according to the Red Cross. The remaining 45% of blood comprises red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

When people donate plasma, plasma is collected through a process called plasmapheresis, which separates the plasma from the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The plasma is collected in a bottle, and the remaining blood cells and platelets re-enter the donor’s bloodstream.

For first-time donors, the process includes an initial health assessment, with the entire donation taking between two and two-and-a-half hours to complete. Returning donors don’t need to undergo a health assessment before donating, and can donate in about an hour, per CSL Plasma.

Who’s eligible to donate?

Donors need to meet several criteria to be considered eligible to donate, similar to blood donations. These include:

  • Donors must be 18 years old
  • Donors need to weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Donors must pass a medical exam, including an extensive medical history screening
  • Donors need to test negative, or non-reactive, for transmissible viruses like hepatitis and HIV
  • Donors should not have received a new tattoo or piercing within the past four months
  • Donors who’ve recovered from COVID-19 are eligible to donate 14 days after a “complete resolution of symptoms,” per CSL Plasma

How are plasma donations used?

Plasma is used to help produce therapies that can treat diseases like immune deficiencies and inherited respiratory conditions, as well as severe burns and major trauma caused by things like car accidents.

Some conditions, like hemophilia, can require up to 1,000 plasma donations for a year’s worth of treatments, Hanes said.

Plasma can be stored frozen or thawed, but must be thawed prior to use. Frozen plasma has a shelf life of one year from the collection date, while thawed plasma lasts “either 24 hours or 5 days, depending on the plasma product,” per UTMB Health.

“Plasma donations are so important because the plasma is used to make life-saving therapies for people with rare and serious disorders,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanes with CSL Plasma. “These range from a whole host of different types of illnesses — things like immune disorders, or bleeding disorders like hemophilia, or even things like inherited respiratory disorders.”