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Sensitive Men Rising: Why the World Needs Us Now More Than Ever

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A new documentary film, Sensitive Men Rising (SMR), is turning its lens to the billion men who have largely been hidden in the shadows. Thanks to the breakthrough that we now know as “sensory processing sensitivity” (SPS) —popularly known as “high sensitivity“— we know men can play a pivotal role in changing the face and times of masculinity as a force for good in the world.

            According to the film’s director, Will Harper,

“Sensitive Men Rising, is a long overdue socially significant film that invites all of us on an emotional, educational, and life-enlightening passage. It asks us ALL to deepen our understanding of sensory processing sensitivity in men, and how it intersects with traditional and modern-day masculinity.”

            The film’s producer, Dr. Tracy Cooper, author of the book, Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul, says,

“Highly Sensitive People (HSP) seem to ignore the cultural programming we are all exposed to and, instead prefer to work out original solutions.”

Prior to the release of the film, June 16, 2024 (Father’s Day), Dr. Cooper interviewed me about my own work with Highly Sensitive Men.

            I also had the good fortune to meet, William Allen, author of the book, On Being a Sensitive Man, and host of an HSP Men’s Monthly Zoom Meeting. My own men’s group has been meeting for 44 years now. I was excited to learn that Bill is gathering men together from all over the world. You can learn more at TheSensitiveMan.com.

            I’ve always known I was a highly sensitive boy growing up, but I never had a name for it until I read Dr. Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, originally published in 1996, with the revised and updated 25th Anniversary Edition, in 2020.Based on the research that she and her husband, Dr. Arthur Aron, had conducted, Dr. Aron says,

“Over twenty percent of people have this amazing, innate trait. A similar percentage is found in over 100 animal species, because high sensitivity is a survival strategy.”

            In a recent article, “How Are Highly Sensitive Men Different?” Dr. Aron says,

“As some of you know, I have a special place in my heart for highly sensitive men. I really do like them. That is part of why I want to see this movie made about them. But what makes them different from other HSPs or other men?”

            Just as her research findings demonstrated that “high sensitivity” is a biologically-based trait present not only in human beings but other species as well, she recognizes that “male sensitivity” also has biological roots.

“First, Highly Sensitive Males (HSMs) develop under the influence of male genes, the main factor being testosterone. Gender spectrum aside, almost all HSMs (and men in general) are clearly biologically male.”

            Dr. Aron goes on to say that these issues are complex and we will learn more over time, yet there are things that we can say now.

“Of course, male and female behavior is such that many men do some things women normally do and vice versa, but hormones have to make HSMs and HSWs different in some ways. How do hormones interact with sensitivity?  We do not know yet, but they surely do, and we need to learn about it. Maybe that’s phase two of the research.”

            Dr. Aron also recognizes the importance of understanding evolutionary realities as we seek to work with this important, biologically, based trait.

“Looking back at the evolution of male behavior we know sensitivity works enough to be present in 20 or even 30% of the population and in equal numbers in men and women. That means HSMs have been successful at reproducing themselves, but how?”

            She goes on to say,

“When you know that you are highly sensitive, it reframes your life. Knowing that you have this trait will enable you to make better decisions.”

Early in my life, I always felt my sensitivity made me different from most of my male peers. Now, as a father of five, grandfather of seventeen, and great grandfather of two, I realize I’m part of a select group of males who have a larger calling in life.

            Based on her own research and that of others, she suggests that we look to the unique ways in which men are engaged with their children.

“We know human males evolved into a strategy found in some birds and in some other mammals, which is staying around after mating to help raise their own young. This method of seeing their DNA go on to the next generation contrasts sharply with simply mating as often as possible with as many females as possible and not staying around after.”

            If we weren’t highly sensitive before we had children, being an involved father will definitely bring out the best in us.

Bottom Line: Highly Sensitive Men Have S.T.Y.L.E.

            Dr. Aron gives us a simple acronym to summarize how this unique trait of High Sensitivity manifests itself in men.

  • S for strategic, or depth of processing in action, since males must act and keep an eye on other males, especially those who are more aggressive.
  • T for testosterone—you cannot explain an HSM by thinking he is more “feminine.”
  • Y  for wise yielding—to live to fight (better) another day and in another way, and yielding as in “high yield” investments.  (Yielding can be misperceived as weakness, but it isn’t at all—as when in the martial arts, especially judo [or Aikido], you use the other’s attack to defeat them almost effortlessly while preserving your own mental and physical energy.)
  • L  for leadership—either among people or becoming leaders in their fields, in the arts, science, business, athletics, or any field they endeavor, using their unique STYLE.
  • E for Empathy, which can be used in close relationships and leadership, but also in knowing, for strategic purposes, what others are up to, sometimes even before they know.

Examples of Highly Sensitive Males

            As Dr. Aron notes, there are a lot of examples we could refer to among the more than 1 billion Highly Sensitive Men in the world today. She offers one example from a Netflix series. Here’s what she has to say:

            “It’s no secret that I like Star Trek, all iterations except the sexist first one, but it’s not so much the science fiction. I like that all the main characters are good people–heroic, kind, etc. I only watch TV while doing my floor exercises every other day, but after watching Star Trek for so many years that I know what happens in every episode, I needed an alternative. 

            “Netflix kindly showed me other things I might like, given my liking for Star Trek, so I tried Designated Survivor.  I was instantly hooked.  It is a relentless thriller, which I would never normally watch and do not recommend for other HSPs. So why was I watching?

            “The show is about U.S. politics–this quiet guy, never interested in power or fame, becomes President after EVERYBODY in the government (even the Supreme Court) is killed in a huge bombing during the State of the Union address. 

            “It turns out this “designated survivor,” played by the actor, Kiefer Sutherland, and many of those around him, inspired by him, are unfailingly good and wise, in every situation, just like the crews of Enterprise. I was hooked, even though I am overstimulated by every episode. It was great to see Highly Sensitive Men in positions of power, even if only in a T.V. drama.”

            I had watched the series and found engaging from the first episode where the Kiefer Sutherland character stands up to a hot-headed general who wants to take immediate action before he knows all the facts, a great example of healthy male leadership. After having watched Sensitive Men Rising, I had a new appreciation for the importance of sensitive male leadership. We definitely need a U.S. President who displays the quality of high sensitivity.

 Sensitive Men Rising: The Peaceful Warriors We Need in the World Today

            A few of the real-life Highly Sensitive Men I have admired in my life include:

  • The Dalai Lama
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Psychologists Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Psychiatrist John Bowlby.

            These are all highly sensitive men who also have had to stand up against oppression with the strength of peaceful warriors. A man who also fits that description is meditation master Chögyam Trungpa. In my book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, I quote Trungpa who says,

“Warriorship does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan, pawo, which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness. Warriorship is not being afraid of who you are.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

            We are at a time in human history where Highly Sensitive Men are needed now more than ever. Mark Jamison, Head of Global Clients, VISA, Inc., one of the experts featured in the film Sensitive Men Rising,  says, “The world is falling apart, political divisiveness is pulling us under, the environment is being destroyed. We need a different model. When people see options that bring hope and sensitivity and a much more integrative approach to problem solving, I see them embracing it with their arms wide open.”

            At the end of the film, Dr. Elaine Aron concluds,

“Most of the world’s suffering is due to a certain kind of masculinity. A different kind can change that. Sensitive men are rising. It’s a whole new ball game.”

You can learn more about the film at sensitivemenrising.org.

            Actor and Director, Peter Coyote, who hosted the film asked us at the end, “What will you do to change the paradigm?” My answer is to join with like-minded and sensitive-souled men and women to make change for good.

            Come visit me on my website, https://menalive.com/ and check out our new non-profit, www.MoonshotForMankind.com.



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Health

Sunscreen Dispensers Make Skin Cancer Prevention Easier

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By John Masson

Sometimes it’s better not to overcomplicate things.

So when students at the University of Michigan Medical School wondered what prevents young people from using sunscreen more often, they simply asked them.

And what they found?

Young people were well aware of the importance of sunscreen and the cancer risk that comes with repeated sunburns – the problem was, though, that sunscreen just wasn’t handy when it was needed.

To the med students, this seemed like an eminently solvable problem.

Their one study led to two developments: first, a successful JAMA Network journal publication for the med school students who conducted it.

Then, perhaps even more significantly, the creation of a program that now places sunscreen dispensers in places around Washtenaw County where young people are likely to need them the most.

“This all started based on findings from the research project we did, where we polled youth ages 14 to 24 throughout the country on their views toward sunscreen and sunburn,” said Olivia Lamberg, M.D., who graduated from the med school this spring.

“We found the main barrier to sunscreen use was access, not education or awareness. So we decided to meet them where they’re at by putting dispensers in places where they may be needed.”

The plan

Beginning in summer 2022, with a $10,000 grant from the Rogel Cancer Center, Lamberg and her fellow med students partnered with Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation, Michigan Athletics, and dispenser and sunscreen supplier Impact Melanoma to strategically place dispensers in places like pools, golf courses and outdoor athletic fields.

In the first two years, 17 dispensers were deployed across 13 locations in Ann Arbor.

About 10,000 applications of sunscreen from the dispensers were made, and an estimated 50,000 people have seen the dispensers and their sun safety messaging.

Starting this summer, the program is expanding to high schools in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

“Certainly, when teens leave the house they are not first and foremost thinking of skin cancer prevention. Athletes are packing athletic gear, not sunscreen,” said Svati Pazhyanur, a medical student who will oversee the program in the coming year since Lamberg graduated.

“One advantage of this project is building a habit and building awareness. In that way, I think it’s been really beneficial.”

Tammy Chang, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at Michigan Medicine, has been involved with the students’ efforts from the beginning.

“This is such a wonderful example of how students are participating in research that can improve the health of their own communities,” Chang said.

“It turns out, young people actually have a lot of knowledge about the dangers of sun exposure. The problem really was operationalizing that knowledge.”

Chang adds that one of the keys to long term skin health is early and consistent use of sunscreen, and that doing so can pay huge dividends for years to come.

“Young people have this potential to change their behavior in ways that can benefit them for the remainder of their lives,” Chang said.

“The potential to impact health and improve the lives of young people is enormous.”

That realization helped drive the medical students’ participation in the program, which includes educational visits to Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation’s summer camps.

During the visits, medical students taught more than 250 youngsters about sun safety, using a combination of games to bring the lessons home.

“We’d do a lot of different games – relay races, have teams pick through different types of clothing to see which types are best in the sun, or have them dress up a teammate in sun safety clothing,” Lamberg said. “We have beads that change color in UV light, so we made bracelets and necklaces out of those,” said Lamberg, who stated it visually highlights the difference between playing in the shade and playing in the sun.

For Pazhyanur, who now dedicates an estimated three to five hours a week to the project, the efforts are well worth it.

“We’re building a habit and building awareness, and in that way I think it’s been beneficial,” Pazhyanur said.

Because of Pazhyanur’s Indian heritage, the work has extra meaning for her: people of color, although typically less prone to skin cancer, tend to have worse outcomes because darker skin means melanoma is often detected later.

“The prevalence is lower than in people with lighter skin,” Pazhyanur said.

“But skin cancer is often caught later, and there’s a higher melanoma mortality among people of color.”

Chang says the heart of the program – and its greatest strength – is its roots in the community.

“The strongest aspect of this program is that it’s community driven,” Chang said.

“The idea came from young people who live and work in this community, and that’s why it works. Communities know best what is good for them.”

It doesn’t hurt, either, that it’s really pretty simple, she says.

“It’s not a fancy, complicated program,” Chang said.

“But sometimes the most simple programs, focused on what the community really wants, are the most effective.”

Previously Published on michiganmedicine.org with Creative Commons License

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Sea Moss Supplement by Holistic Vybez: A Family-Owned Wellness Revolution

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Established by Naeem and Ashley Akbar, Holistic Vybez is a family-run firm that has grown quickly to become a major force in the holistic health sector. Holistic Vybez, which was founded on vegan principles and was influenced by Dr. Sebi, was started during the pandemic to cater to the growing interest of consumers in wellness and health. This piece examines their path, the difficulties they encountered, and their goals going forward.

Both Dr. Sebi’s disciples Naeem and Ashley Akbar were devoted vegans. They founded Holistic Vybez during the pandemic because of their steadfast commitment to natural health and wellness. They decided to go all in and sell goods meant to improve immunity and general well-being, such as their well-liked sea moss supplement, after realizing that consumer attention was shifting toward health.

Sea Moss Gel Challenges: Perseverance Amidst Adversity

Starting a sea moss gel and health company during the pandemic’s peak meant overcoming several challenges:

  • Pandemic challenges: Products were lost and reshipping costs incurred a loss of almost $7,000.
  • Customer communication: To establish their superior level of customer service, Naeem and Ashley personally contacted each consumer to explain the circumstances.

Seamoss Store: Scaling Up

Holistic Vybez showed tenacity and dedication by expanding from a basement operation to a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in just two years. Their commitment to delivering a high-quality sea moss supplement and upholding stellar client relations drove their quick development.

Health With Intention

  • Emphasis on health benefits: Holistic Vybez places a higher priority on health benefits than flavor. Every newly released sea moss supplement producthas an ever-expanding list of therapeutic benefits.
  • Novel goods: To provide extra value for their customers, every new flavor or product, like their sea moss gel, is carefully chosen for its health advantages.

Career Highlights

  • Rapid growth: In just four years, Holistic Vybez has scaled to an $8,000,000 business.
  • Customer loyalty: Their commitment to quality and customer service has earned them a loyal customer base.

Expanding Sea Moss Gel and the Holistic Vybez Brand

Holistic Vybez aims to become a leading brand in the holistic health industry. The Akbar’s dream of opening physical stores to reach and support more communities, making it easier for customers to buy sea moss online or visit a nearby seamoss store.

The Heart of Holistic Vybez and Sea Moss Supplements

A tribute to the Akbars’ commitment to infusing family values into every facet of their business is Holistic Vybez. Because they are a family-run, black business, they make sure that all of their employees are treated as members of their extended family, which fosters a friendly and cooperative work atmosphere.

Image sourced from the Holistic Vybez website.

Naeem and Ashley Akbar have made it a point to conduct their business in an environmentally responsible manner. They use food from sustainable farms and utilize recyclable packaging materials. Their commitment to environmental preservation is a reflection of their holistic wellness concept, which takes into account both the health of the environment and their clientele.

Holistic Vybez is distinguished not only by its superior sea moss supplements and goods but also by its everlasting dedication to family, health, and customer support. The goal of a healthy world is progressively coming to pass thanks to Naeem and Ashley Akbar’s ongoing innovation and growth.

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Plasma You Sell in East Kansas City Could End up in Medicine an Ocean Away

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By Suzanne King

Michael Mullen donates blood plasma every Tuesday and Thursday. He has for 12 years.

Takeaways
  1. The U.S. is one of a handful of countries that lets people sell plasma.
  2. Plasma donation centers in the United States, including 11 in Kansas City, supply 70% of the world’s plasma.
  3. Drug therapies made from the plasma are life-saving to people with rare, chronic diseases.
  4. But critics worry that the effects of frequent, long-term donation are unknown.

The money it brings in — a little over $100 a week — augments what he makes as a chef. He’s come to rely on it.

“It helps supplement bill paying,” he said recently, smoking a cigarette outside the Biomat USA donation center on East 63rd Street where he’d just spent an hour and a half in the donation chair. “If I didn’t have it, I don’t know. I don’t know what would happen.”

Kelcey Gordon is out of work and said he’d struggle without the money he makes donating twice a week. Standing outside the same for-profit plasma donation center, one of 11 in the Kansas City area, he said he is grateful for the extra cash it represents.

In the $35 billion plasma pharmaceutical industry, Mullen, Gordon and some 3 million other U.S. adults supply the raw material the industry counts on.

The plasma they deposit every week is tested, processed and separated into protein parts that become medicine to treat rare, chronic conditions like immune deficiencies, autoimmune diseases and bleeding disorders.

Their plasma, collected at a storefront that shares a shopping center with a Thriftway and lies just a block east of Cash America Pawn, will end up in medicines sold for hundreds or thousands of dollars a dose. It will likely treat patients on the other side of the world.

Thanks to regulations that make the United States one of the few countries to let companies pay for plasma, and because people here can donate as often as twice a week, the U.S. supplies about 70% of the world’s plasma.

“This is the world basket of plasma,” said Peter Jaworski, a Georgetown University professor who studies the plasma economy.

The industry — with the enthusiastic backing of organizations that advocate for people suffering from the diseases that plasma therapies treat — says the system works. If people weren’t paid to donate, they argue demand could not be met. That would mean thousands of people would die or be unable to live normal lives.

The plasma centers, most of them owned and operated by pharmaceutical companies based overseas, say their business models also inject money into local communities.

Donation centers employ phlebotomists, security guards and screeners. And the payments made to donors — which vary based on how often someone donates and, in some cases, how much a donor weighs — go back into the local economy.

But doctors and public health experts caution that no one really knows what frequent plasma donations over many years could mean for donors’ health.

And they worry that poor people provide a bulk of U.S. donations at plasma centers. Plasma centers tend to set up in disadvantaged neighborhoods and rely on incentive programs designed to make donors give again and again.

Plasma centers push people to give as often as possible, but they don’t disclose the unknown risks of frequently extracting plasma from their blood for many years.

“People perceive it as a better alternative than high-cost loans that lead to debt,” said Emily A. Gallagher, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Colorado. She co-authored a study about the intersection between plasma donors and payday loan customers.

“Without knowing the longer-term health consequences,” she said, “it’s analogous to a loan against your future house with an unknown interest rate.”

Therapies from donated plasma

The blood running through your veins includes red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Plasma — a yellow-tinged liquid — accounts for more than half of your blood.

It is 90% water, but also contains proteins vital to living a normal life. When someone has plasma that lacks  — or is short on — certain proteins, they end up with rare and chronic diseases. Medicines made from healthy human plasma treat those diseases by supplementing the lacking plasma.

For someone with primary immune deficiency, a condition in which a person’s immune system doesn’t function properly, it takes 130 donations to cover a year’s worth of treatment. For a person with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a potentially fatal disease that can lead to organ damage, that number jumps to 900 donations a year. And for someone with hemophilia, a blood clotting disorder, it takes 1,200 donations of plasma to make a year’s worth of medicine.

Scientists have known about blood circulation since 1628, and blood transfusions began almost that long ago. In 1665, a British doctor figured out how to keep a dog alive by transfusing blood from other dogs.

At the beginning of the 20th century, scientists began to figure out that different people had different blood types. And by World War II the value of blood plasma was well understood.

In 1940, researchers developed a process to break plasma down into individual components to treat patients. That’s essentially what happens to plasma donated today.

Wild west of plasma collection

Donated plasma goes through a process known as fractionation, which separates plasma into various protein parts. Once it is tested and cleaned — a process that can take up to a year — those proteins are pooled with other donors’ plasma and made into therapies.

Plasma therapies for patients on the receiving end are considered extremely safe today. Tests designed to find plasma tainted by disease are highly effective. And plasma pharmaceutical makers won’t use plasma until a donor has given at least twice and the donor has passed a health screening. In addition, plasma is treated to kill any lingering virus before it is used in medicine.

But in the 1980s, before it was understood that viruses like HIV could be transmitted through blood, plasma transfusions proved deadly.

In the United States, 63% of hemophiliacs contracted HIV after receiving plasma from infected donors. Others contracted hepatitis B and hepatitis C, diseases that are also transmitted through blood.

After those “wild west days of plasma collection,” Jaworski said, the industry underwent drastic changes. That included pharmaceutical companies taking over independent donation centers. In recent years, those centers have multiplied.

Pharmaceutical companies operate a combined 1,000 collection centers in the United States. That’s compared to 300 in 2005.

The business of taking human plasma and turning it into medicine is worth about $35 billion this year. And that could nearly double by 2032, according to Fortune Business Insights, a market research firm.

Growing demand for plasma donations

Kansas City-area donation centers are all owned directly by the companies that make the plasma-derived drugs.

They include the Biomat on 63rd Street, owned by Grifols S.A., a Spanish company. Other Kansas City donation centers are owned by CSL Ltd., based in Australia, Takeda Pharmaceuticals from Japan and Octapharma Plasma, out of Switzerland.

Experts say the influx of new donation centers in recent years follows growing demand for plasma therapies. That’s because scientists are figuring out that more diseases can benefit from plasma medicines. During the COVID pandemic, plasma transfusions from previously infected donors were tried as a treatment, but its effectiveness isn’t understood because scientific testing was lacking.

Demand for plasma therapies is also up because more people are being diagnosed with diseases that could benefit from them.

For example, improved newborn screenings mean more people know they have primary immune deficiency, diseases that affect an estimated 500,000 people. But according to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, “tens of thousands” of others remain undiagnosed.

Only the United States, Germany, the Czech Republic and a few other countries allow payments for plasma donations. The countries that restrict payments have to rely on imports, primarily from the U.S. There is no synthetic alternative to human plasma.

That’s why Jaworski wants more countries to allow paid plasma.

“There isn’t a single country in the world that collects enough plasma to meet demand unless they compensate donors,” he said. “The most important moral mission for a system of blood and plasma collection is to meet the needs of patients.”

By that standard, he said, the American system is unquestionably succeeding.

“America not only collects enough for its own citizens,” he said, “it also collects enough for the rest of the world.”

Is donating plasma twice a week safe?

Through a process known as plasmapheresis, the plasma collected at for-profit centers is taken out of a donor’s arm as whole blood, pumped into a machine that separates out plasma and returns red blood cells and other components of blood to the donor.

That process, known as source plasma collection, is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and also overseen by the countries that import the plasma. Donors spend about 90 minutes in the donation chair.

Nonprofit blood centers like the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City collect plasma through whole blood donations. Plasma is separated out once blood has been donated. But that process yields much less plasma.

Nonprofit blood banks don’t pay for donations. For one thing, hospitals won’t accept blood from a donor who has been compensated. And the World Health Organization advises against paying for donations. It’s considered risky because donors who give blood because they need money could be more likely to misrepresent their health history — essentially hiding the likelihood that they’re carrying blood-borne infections.

Because plasma used in pharmaceuticals is so thoroughly processed, the risk posed by paid donations is lower. Jaworski said it’s proved to be extraordinarily safe for 30 years. He argues that objections to paid plasma donations are unrealistic when so many people rely on plasma therapies.

He compared paying people for their plasma to hiring firefighters rather than relying on volunteers. The payment doesn’t diminish the good act, he said.

“At some point, you get too many fires and you have to pay people to put out the fires,” he said. “We hit that tipping point (for plasma) more than 20 years ago.”

People who rely on the therapies created from paid-for plasma are actively campaigning to be sure paid donations continue.

The Immune Deficiency Foundation has a program meant to recruit more paid donors. “Your work will encourage donors to continue donating and, in turn, encourage their friends and family to donate plasma as well,” the organization’s web page says.

But while plasma-derived therapies are critical for the patients relying on them to live a normal life, some doctors worry about what plasma donation could do to donors.

Plasma collection centers advise donors to drink lots of water, get sleep and have a healthy meal before donating. In the near term, donors are told to be prepared for certain temporary side effects like dehydration, dizziness and fatigue.

On its webpage, CSL Plasma also warns about the possibility that donating frequently for a long period of time can deplete immunoglobulin levels, which can lower a person’s ability to fight off infections.

What is the downside to donating plasma?

Dr. Morey A. Blinder, a hematologist at Washington University, said that’s definitely something frequent plasma donors should worry about. Long-term studies, looking at people who donate plasma twice a week, year after year, simply haven’t been done, he said.

“You’re depleting a person’s proteins in their bloodstream,” he said. “And it’s hard to know what the effect of that is.”

Proteins regenerate, he said, so in the short term, people can keep up. But it’s unclear what happens over time.

And while the plasma collection centers monitor donors’ health, their incentive isn’t to limit donations. It’s to collect as much plasma as possible.

“There are financial incentives to these donors to stay on schedule and keep donating,” Blinder said.

Many doctors would feel more comfortable, he said, if that pressure were reduced. Blinder also would like to see more frequent checks of donors’ blood levels, and a weekly, rather than twice weekly, donation limit.

“People in this field would say that would be an advantage,” he said.

Blinder also questions whether the pharmaceutical companies are paying donors fairly. Donors take home around $50 per donation, but the medicine it’s eventually turned into can cost $200 a gram, perhaps $16,000 per treatment dose, depending on the illness.

“We don’t have a good sense of the margins they earn on the plasma,” said Gallagher, the University of Colorado professor.

Right or wrong, the paid plasma business has become a reasonably big thread in the country’s social safety net. Gallagher found that people tend to donate plasma so they can get extra money and avoid taking out high-interest loans to make ends meet. Donors range from college students to single parents to low-wage earners who just need extra cash.

BioLife Plasma Services is promising new donors “up to $800.” And CSL Plasma advertises new donors “over $700 your first month.”

Whether or not donors are getting a fair payment, selling plasma is tempting a growing number of Americans. And, like Mullen and Gordon, they’re relying on the extra cash.

That’s why most mornings, before CSL Plasma’s donation center at 37th and Broadway opens for business at 6 a.m., a line of ready donors is already waiting outside.

This article first appeared on Beacon: Kansas City and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

This story was originally published by The Kansas City Beacon, an online news outlet focused on local, in-depth journalism in the public interest.

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