Kiwi doctors have come up with world-first way to freeze blood platelets

In a world first, a group of Kiwi doctors have come up with a way to safely freeze blood platelets.

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Up until now, platelets couldn't be frozen and only had a shelf life of seven days but now they can last up to two years. Source: 1 NEWS

Dr Richard Charlewood, a transfusion specialist from New Zealand Blood Service, has led the research for five years.

"We are very excited about this because it fulfills two of our goals, one is to obviously provide blood products to patients in need all over the country, but also this is good for our donors because we're making far more efficient use of our donors which is something we really value," he told 1 NEWS.

Blood plasma helps form a blood clot, and carries platelets which activate the clotting and seals holes in torn blood vessels. Both components are critical when it comes to stopping bleeding.

Platelet donations need to be used within seven days, and have to be stored in a temperature-controlled machine where it's constantly agitated. Currently, 15 per cent of all phatelet donations aren't used in time.

While they've been frozen in the past, the thawing process is fragile.

"Typically you've got a bag of plasma and a bag of platelets, and to thaw it in a waterbath you'd join both the bags in a very sterile manner to protect the patient," Charlewood said.

Charlewood and his team came up with a simple, but crucial element in making blood platelets freezable and easy to thaw.

Through what they've dubbed a 'fancy cereal clip' they've managed to divide a bag containing plasma and cryo-protected platelets that can be frozen for up to two years and thawed easily. The clip is able to withstand -80 degree freezers.

Dr Shay McGuinness, who was part of the research, says it's a game changer for smaller medical centres across the country.

"It's fantastic from New Zealand Blood Service and means those in smaller hospitals won't have to rely on high tech lab facilities. It's a great solution to what was looking like a complex problem," McGuinness told 1 NEWS.

"For example, if a patient needed urgent platelets, they'd have to be flown from a major hospital which isn't ideal in a time-precious situation."

McGuiness, who works as an intensive care specialist for patients who've undergone heart surgery, is looking forward to the benefits in his work also.

Funding has been approved for a larger trial to take place at five major centres that perform heart surgeries in New Zealand.