Researchers Big Discovery May Change The Way Blood Transfusions Are Done

Ebony Scott
August 25, 2018

Scientists say a certain bacterial enzyme may be able to reliably convert any type of blood into type O, a valuable discovery which could alleviate the global blood shortage by producing more of the type that is almost universally compatible.

He added that their main goal was to find "enzymes that allow us to remove the A or B antigens from red blood cells".

This would make blood transfusions much easier, since donor and patient blood types must usually match, unless the donor's blood is type O negative.

Researchers have tested enzyme-altered blood before, including in a small study in humans published in the journal Transfusion in 2000.

The process could create a safe and reliable blood source for emergency blood transfusions, without adverse immune reactions.

Now, scientists bridge the gap between blood type needs and donors' blood type by discovering an enzyme that can transform type A and B blood into O. Instead of culturing microbe after microbe in a painstaking process, the research team simply extracted DNA from all the microorganisms found in the human gut. However, it was only able to convert B type blood and was considered too expensive to be viable.

The researchers then turned their attention to the mucosal lining of the human gut - which contains sugars similar in structure to blood antigens - by extracting bacterial DNA from fecal samples.

While Withers and a team of researchers originally planned on analyzing the qualities of mosquitoes and leeches, they quickly turned their attentions to enzymes and gut bacteria.

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As Newsweek points out, there are four blood types: A, B, AB, and O. In addition, there is the protein called the RH factor which is what determines whether a person has a positive or negative blood type.

Researchers in the U.S. said the transformation is up to 30 times more efficient than previously studied enzymes and will soon start work on clinical trials.

Withers reported his findings this week at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting, in Boston.

As anyone who has given blood at the Red Cross can attest, type O blood is in high demand.

Burn and accident victims as well as patients undergoing surgery are all dependent on the availability of blood and platelets, but with critically low blood supplies, they may not be able to receive treatment, Healthline noted. But that particular enzyme, which could convert only type B blood, was too expensive and inefficient for real-world use, said a 2008 review in the British Journal of Haematology.

"You could see this being put into the bag at the time of collection, just sitting there doing its job", Withers said during the press conference.

The American Red Cross states that there are very specific ways in which blood must be donated to ensure safety.

"This technique could broaden the utility of the current blood supply because O type blood can be donated to anybody", Withers explains.

Other reports by GizPress

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