Published: Sat, August 25, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Blood for universal transfusions might be sourced from gut bacteria

Blood for universal transfusions might be sourced from gut bacteria

Researchers at the University of B.C. think they might have found a way to transform a very common type of human blood - type A - into the universally usable type O negative.

For the past years, researchers have tried to find the safest and most effective way to remove the antigens from blood Type A and Type B that prevent them from being donated to non-matching blood types. Then, it will likely be implemented in blood banks so that they have the option of stripping out the blood type identifier and making these units a universal blood type when necessary.

"Researchers have been studying the use of enzymes to modify blood as far back as 1982", said Withers. The O negative blood type is used extensively in blood transfusions because it can be used in replacement of all blood types.

Withers and his colleagues-UBC microbiologist Steven Hallam and pathologist Jay Kizhakkedathu of the Centre for Blood Research at UBC-are applying for a patent on the new enzymes and are hoping to test them on a larger scale in the future, in preparation for clinical testing. Type A has A antigens, type B has B antigens and type AB has both.

Withers said the UBC team sampled DNA from millions of microorganisms found in various environmental samples to find one in which the desired enzymes might be found.

O-type blood has no antigens attached to it, which is why it can be donated to anyone without adverse effects.

But if it's a sustainable technique, the implications are multifold-especially given the nature of the technique itself, which involves lopping off certain antigens (which are, in essence, simple sugars) from particular red blood cells.

Mucins provide sugar residues that gut bacteria attach to and some of the mucin sugars resemble the structure of antigens on type A and B blood.

In each group, there is a protein called the Rh factor, which is either positive or negative, resulting in eight blood types. But that particular enzyme, which could convert only type B blood, was too expensive and inefficient for real-world use, said a 2008 review in the British Journal of Haematology.

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

Burn and accident victims as well as patients undergoing surgery are all dependent on the availability of blood and platelets, but with critically low blood supplies, they may not be able to receive treatment, Healthline noted.

In an emergency situation, there may not be time to do a full check to get a good match, which is why having enough type-O blood to use is so important for health services.

"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.

American Red Cross notably announced a blood shortage in July.

"This technique could broaden the utility of the current blood supply because O type blood can be donated to anybody", Withers explains.

Like this: