WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Scientists have found a way to convert type A blood into “universal” blood type.
- The method uses enzymes isolated from bacteria living in the human gut.
- The study, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, used an enzyme to remove A antigens from type A blood.
Every year, an estimated 117 million pints of blood are donated all over the world. Though that may seem like a lot, incompatibility between blood types means that not all people get the blood that they do need. People can only accept blood that has the same blood type as theirs. There is the “universal” blood type, type O, which can be accepted by anyone who has Rhesus (Rh) positive blood. Around three-quarters of the world’s population has an A+, B+, AB+, or O+ blood type.
A recent study by researchers at the University of British Columbia has now shown that there may another possible “universal” blood type. Using enzymes isolated from the human gut, type A blood cells can be converted into O type. Blood type is determined by the antigens coating the surface of your red blood cells as well as antibodies within the plasma. For example, A-type blood has A antigens and anti-B antibodies.
The opposite is true for B type blood which has B antigens and anti-A antibodies. This is why people can only accept blood of their own type. If you injected a person with type A blood with type B blood instead, the recipient’s anti-B bodies would react with the B antigens and trigger an immune response that could be fatal.
Type O blood, on the other hand, has a “neutral” H antigen instead of A or B. In the journal Nature Microbiology, the researchers used an enzyme to remove A antigens from type A blood. This means that transfusing it to a patient of the same Rhesus type won’t cause an immune response. Because type A blood comes second on the list of the most common blood type (next to O), this can significantly increase the amount of universal donor blood.
However, this has only been done in a lab, in a petri dish. Still, the findings are definitely promising.
Source: IFL Science