Study shows possibility of converting type A to type O blood

July 15, 2019

The idea of using enzymes to turn a common blood type into a rarer one has been around since 1982.

But a recent paper published in the journal Nature Microbiology has shown progress in converting type A-negative blood to the relatively rare O- negative using enzymes from a human gut bacteria.

“This is a very exciting discovery,” said Scott Jones, Vice President, Scientific Affairs at BioBridge Global. “If it works out as planned, this discovery could change blood banking and allow blood centers to have more type O blood on the shelves by converting type A blood to type O.”

A, B and AB blood types are defined by the presence of molecules on the surface of red blood cells, while type O is defined as not having either the A or B molecule.

Just 7 percent of the U.S. population has type O-negative blood, and it is frequently in short supply because it can be transfused into virtually any patient in an emergency.

In the study conducted at the University of British Columbia, researchers looked at multiple enzymes before finding one that was particularly effective in removing the molecule that defines type A blood.

“The very high activity and specificity of these enzymes using whole blood make them very promising candidates for cost-efficient conversion of A and B type blood to O,” Jones said. “Implementation of this process involves using existing automated blood collection, processing and storage processes.”

Previous attempts at converting blood types had run into major problems: It took a large quantity of the enzyme to cause the conversion, and the process was inefficient.

“Since that initial finding, researchers have been looking for the ‘holy grail’ enzyme(s) that could efficiently perform this conversion process,” Jones said.

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