Blood transfusions must be compatible with the recipient’s blood type. If the blood is not compatible, the patient’s immune system attacks the transfused red blood cells, causing a potentially fatal transfusion reaction. This would be the case if someone with type A blood received type B blood (or the reverse). The patient’s body would produce antibodies to attack the red blood cells that have antigens that don’t match.
The exception is type O blood, often referred to as the “universal donor.” Type O red blood cells don’t have antigens, which means they can be transfused to patients of any blood type. This means that there is high demand for type O blood (specifically type O blood that is Rh negative, the true universal donor).
To provide an additional source of universal red blood cells, researchers have been looking for a means to convert A, B, and AB blood into type O for years. Finding a reliable and cost-effective method has proven to be challenging. However, there is a new approach that looks promising. Scientists have now identified a group of enzymes that appear to be capable of efficiently trimming A and B antigens from red blood cells to produce type O blood. The enzymes, which are derived from gut bacteria, are up to 30 times more efficient than previously studied enzymes.
The true effectiveness of this approach can only be proven by testing the converted blood in the human body. The hope is that this discovery can eventually be further explored in clinical trials. If this approach were to succeed, it could help address the challenge of blood shortages by increasing the supply of universal donor blood.
At Helmer Scientific, we are always pleased to learn about developments that may ultimately benefit those who look after the blood supply and the patients that they serve. We have offered high quality blood storage equipment for 40 years and are here to support your efforts to properly store and monitor your blood products.