Researchers Have Found A Way To Convert Donor Blood Into A Universal Type

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In July 2018, the American Red Cross declared an emergency blood shortage - it was just not receiving enough donations to help all the patients who needed blood.

Researchers Have Found A Way To Convert Donor Blood Into A Universal Type

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In July 2018, the American Red Cross declared an emergency blood shortage - it was just not receiving enough donations to help all the patients who needed blood.


Researchers from the University of British Columbia might have found a way to address the problem, even if people are not donating more: convert a less-usable blood type into one that anyone can receive.


In August 2018, they presented their research at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, and the results have now been published in the journal Nature Microbiology.


According to Science Alert, blood types are different because of the sugars on the surface of the red blood cells the body creates. Type A has one type of sugar and Type B has another; Type AB has both sugars. Type O does not have any sugars.


If a person receives a blood transfusion of a blood type that isn't their own, their immune system will attack and kill the donated blood cells.


For instance, a person with Type A blood could never receive a Type B donation because their system would reject the new blood because the sugars aren't quite right.


Because Type O blood does not carry any sugars, anyone can receive it - it is the universally accepted blood type and, therefore, highly desirable.


In the past, researchers discovered that certain enzymes (molecules which cause chemical reactions) could remove the sugars from A, B, and AB blood cells, converting them into the more useful Type O.


According to researcher Stephen Withers, however, they had not yet discovered an enzyme that was safe, efficient, and economical. Their search for this enzyme took them into the human gut.


Withers and his team already knew the lining of the digestive tract contained the same sugars discovered on blood cells as well as that bacterial enzymes within human feces stripped these sugars from the lining to power digestion.


Using that knowledge, the researchers managed to isolate an enzyme which strips the sugars from A and B blood types, turning them into Type O thirty times more efficiently than any previously discovered enzyme.


The researchers are double-checking their findings for now. The next step would be to test the enzyme in a clinical setting, that will help determine whether the conversion process produces any unintended consequences.


All this extra testing could still take some time. However, Withers is optimistic that his team's enzyme could be the breakthrough we need to ensure anybody who needs a blood donation in the future will be able to receive one.

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Thinking Humanity: Researchers Have Found A Way To Convert Donor Blood Into A Universal Type
Researchers Have Found A Way To Convert Donor Blood Into A Universal Type
In July 2018, the American Red Cross declared an emergency blood shortage - it was just not receiving enough donations to help all the patients who needed blood.
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