Researchers discover way to turn any blood type to universal O

Avatar By Tyler MacDonald | 1 year ago

A team of Canadian researchers might have discovered a way to turn any blood type to the universal O, which would eliminate the need for compatibility between blood donors and recipients.

Human blood has four types: AB, A, B, and O. They are distinguished by tiny sugar molecules located on the surface of red blood cells. When types are incompatible, the body initiates a dangerous immune reaction against the cells of the foreign blood.

“In the lab, we tossed around various ideas about where there might be bacteria that would degrade blood,” said biochemist Stephen Withers. “One thinks of things like the leech gut or the mosquito gut, but those are probably a little hard to access.”

The team examined around 20,000 different DNA samples to determine the best enzyme to cut off blood cell antigens necessary for the process.

“This work is very promising,” said Dana Devine, chief scientist at Canadian Blood Services. “The type of blood donated will likely never be exactly matched to the demand for specific blood groups, but this new technology offers an opportunity to create a ‘workaround’ for the disproportionate demand for O blood by turning the excess inventory of other blood groups into group O.”

“It can cleave approximately 30 times more quickly from the previous best candidate that was published a while back, when we did a side-by-side comparison of the two,” Withers said.

He believes that the success of his projects hinges on new techniques in metagenomics that were not available to previous researchers.