Study finds way to convert A, B, AB blood to type O

August 27, 2018

Canadian researchers have discovered what could be a way to alleviate a common blood shortage by using enzymes from bacteria in the human digestive system.

The team from the University of British Columbia found the enzymes could remove the A and B antigens from type A, B and AB red blood cells. The process effectively turns them into type O, since type O is defined as not having either A or B antigens on the red cells.

Type O blood is the most common in the United States, and the supply of O-negative is always tight because it can be used in virtually any patient in an emergency.

Scientists have searched for years for a way to convert type AB, A and B blood to type O, but have had little success in developing an affordable and reliable system.

But the Canadian team found microbes in the human gut that are good at breaking down sugars found on proteins in the intestine. The process is similar to one that would remove the sugary A and B antigens from the red blood cells.

Using a technique known as metagenomics, the researchers were able to isolate an enzyme that could strip away the A antigens. Previous work had identified an enzyme that could remove B antigens.

More work is needed on the research before it can proceed to clinical trials, but the concept has the potential to make shortages of type O blood a thing of the past.

The research, presented at 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, was summarized at A video about the research, produced by the American Chemical Society, is available on YouTube.

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