In these rough economic times, people are looking for reliable sources of income wherever they can. One such source may literally be running through their veins.
Blood plasma, the liquid component of blood that holds the blood cells, is used by pharmaceutical companies to make a wide variety of medicines. It has long been a source of easy money for college students and people looking to make a quick buck. (Legally, plasma centers cannot buy donors' plasma outright; rather, the contributors are compensated for their time.)
However, given the weak economy, the number of people exchanging their time for cash has increased dramatically.
According to the Chicago Tribune, total donations may hit 16 million this year, up from 10 million just three years ago.
For many donors, donating plasma is about more than just the money; it's also about an easy way to help others.
"I don't mind doing it, because I'm doing something that can help save a life," said Aaron Earls Jr., 43. "But at the same time, I'm doing it to save my own life. You get two for one."
With business booming, more plasma donation centers are opening around the country.
However, blood centers want to remind people that while plasma makes medicine, it doesn't help hospital patients. They want to make sure people are still donating blood, which will aid people locally.
"A little bit of what we end up with as a byproduct could end up making those same pharmaceuticals, but the plasma center does not support our local hospitals with transfusion centers and blood products," Jennifer Bowman of the Rock River Valley Blood Center told WREX.
Lately, plasma centers have been using promotional campaigns to highlight those who benefit from their resulting medications, including people who suffer from hemophilia, immunodeficiency syndromes, and burn and shock victims.