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A newly discovered enzyme could turn blood types A, B and AB into type 0

Posted August 25, 2018

In same case blood transfusion is the only way to save a life. And doctors must feel so helpless when there are so many people around, but none of them match the patient. For blood transfusions to be successful, blood types must match, but now scientists from the University of British Columbia have identified a group of enzymes that can turn any type of blood into the universally usable type.

Blood type 0 doesn’t have antigens and, therefore, is universal. Image credit: U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos via Wikimedia

This discovery could vastly expand the pool of potential blood donors. It can also make blood transfusions safer and more effective and looking for a match – easier. There are 4 blood types, identified in the beginning of the 20th century. They are defined by the presence of antigens on the surface of red blood cells. For example, type A blood has the A antigen, while B has the B antigen. There is also an AB type, which has both and type 0, which has neither. Different antigens can trigger immune reactions, which is why patients must receive blood of matching type or the universal type 0.

There is only a limited number of people with type 0 blood. Include Rh factor, which is another antigen found on red blood cells, and the pool of potential blood donors becomes quite small. However, stripping the blood cell of these antigens would make it type 0 regardless of what it was before. Scientists have been looking for enzymes that could do that for quite some time, but now they finally identified a more powerful group of enzymes found in the human gut.

They managed to achieve that by sampling DNA from millions of microorganisms found in environmental samples in order to find an environment in which the desired enzymes might be found. They found that some gut enzymes might be the best for the task and produced quantities of those enzymes through cloning. Then it was just a matter of testing, which revealed that these enzymes, usually used by bacteria to pluck off the sugar molecules, can be used to strip off blood cells of antigens.

Now scientists are preparing for clinical testing, but they are very hopeful about it. Stephen Withers, lead researcher of the study, said: “Expanding global blood supply is critical in light of growing populations and the frequency of natural disasters. Our hope is that one day we can eventually render any type of donated blood, tissues or organs, safe for use by anyone regardless of their native blood type”.

Blood donations save lives. And you can become a donor as well, if there is someone who needs the type of blood you have. This discovery could significantly expand the pool of potential donors and could actually save many lives.


Source: University of British Columbia

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