Scientists discover how to CONVERT types A and B into type O

Aug 25, 2018, 01:42
Scientists discover how to CONVERT types A and B into type O

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.

Gutblood " We have been particularly interested in enzymes that allow us to remove the A or B antigens from red blood cells", says Stephen Withers, Ph.D. and paper coauthor.

Whereas type A or B blood can only receive transfusions from (or make donations to) others with the same blood type, medical professionals can use type O blood with any of the three other major blood types: A, B, or O. Type AB, the other of the four major blood types, works in reverse; it can receive blood from any other type but only donate to others who are type AB.

The research team chose to look for enzymes that might be able to do the job using something called "metagenomics" to analyse the genes of multiple kinds of organisms.

An enzyme-driven process was first discovered in 1982 and research has carried on ever since.

Enzymes made by bacteria in the human digestive tract can strip the sugars that determine blood type from the surface of red blood cells in the lab, a new study finds.

UBC said Withers and his colleagues are applying for a patent for the new technique to test the enzymes on a larger scale and prepare for clinical work.

But O-blood, specifically O-negative, are the universal donors because they lack A and B antigens. "If you can remove those antigens, which are just simple sugars, then you can convert A or B to O blood". Last month the Red Cross put forth an emergency call for blood donors.

The team will present the results of their research so far on Tuesday morning at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Boston.

Removing antigens from blood effectively transforms it into type O. Withers and his team previously developed enzymes that were capable of doing so, but this latest study identifies a more powerful group of enzymes found in the human gut. The team found an entire family of enzymes that gut bacteria use to pluck sugars off mucins, which are the proteins that line the gut wall.

In laboratory tests, the enzymes were able to completely convert blood type A to O.

"It just becomes another step and another cost", Ziman said.

Time is consumed testing the patient's type in order to save his life.

"Obviously, the next stages are all about safety, making sure this doesn't cause any inadvertent effects", Mr Withers said. "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". "We are hopeful that technology can support in alleviating numerous issues around blood shortages faced by blood collection centers such as Red Cross and others to meet patient needs".

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