The blood also contains platelets, or thrombocytes, and at least 15 other factors active in blood clotting. Platelets are tiny plate-shaped cytoplasmic bags of blood-clotting chemicals produced by megakaryocytes; if their production is hindered, as by AIDS or chemotherapy, there is an increased risk of bleeding. Also circulating in the plasma are the hormones that the endocrine glands secrete directly into the bloodstream. In addition, essential salts (such as those of sodium and potassium), essential plasma proteins (albumin, globulins, and fibrinogen), and metabolic wastes (such as urea) circulate in the plasma.
Serum, a straw-colored liquid, essentially composed of plasma without fibrinogen, makes up the liquid component of blood that separates from the clot. Serum is separated from whole blood by centrifuging and can serve various medical uses. Normal human serum is sometimes used to treat shock and the loss of fluid resulting from severe burns.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.