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UBC scientists herald world of universal blood tranfusions
25 August 2018, 01:40 | Melissa Porter
Nurses attend blood donors on beds during session at NHS National Blood Service collection centre
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.
"We have been particularly interested in enzymes that allow us to remove the A or B antigens from red blood cells".
The research team was able to "get a snapshot of all the DNA" found in the gut by using a method called metagenomics on a sample of human feces. Type A has one type of sugar and Type B has another; Type AB has both sugars. However, they found the right candidates from the enzymes of bacteria found in the human gut.
In order to decrease the risk of spreading infectious disease, donation centers never pool blood donations, she said; that is, they don't put all type A blood together, etc. The next step, though, will be investigating the enzymes for safety - a project Withers and his colleagues have already begun in collaboration with hematologists and Canadian Blood Services, the nonprofit that manages Canada's supply of donor blood. "You've got a base sugar structure on the O blood and there's an additional sugar attached to that to make it A or B".
Glycosylated proteins called mucins line the gut wall, providing sugars that serve as attachment points for gut bacteria while also feeding them as they assist in digestion.
Experts from the American chemical society was able to identify enzymes that can efficiently convert the second and third group of blood in the first.
Withers explained that scientists have been looking for a safe and economical way to find efficient enzymes that can adjust the donated blood to a universal type.
"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 Red Cross must collect more than 13,000 blood and platelet donations each day to meet the needs of accident victims, people undergoing heart surgery, cancer patients, people with blood disorders and others". "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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