Gut bug enzyme turns blood into type-O

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Researchers at Vancouver-based University of British Columbia discovered a new method to create Type O blood, using an enzyme found in the human stomach, according to research presented at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting August 21 in Boston. There are four blood types - A, B, AB and O. Right now, A and B recipients must receive exactly the same type they have.

People with type O-negative blood are known as universal donors, meaning they can give to anyone with any blood type.

Withers collaborated with a colleague who uses metagenomics to study ecology from the UBC to asses all potential enzyme candidates. Using type-O negative blood in transfusions doesn't lead to risky, possibly life-threatening, reactions in the patient.

Now, scientists bridge the gap between blood type needs and donors' blood type by discovering an enzyme that can transform type A and B blood into O. This led his team to look for the enzyme in the human gut.

Canadian Blood Services said 46 per cent of Canada's population has group-O blood, while 42 per cent is group A, nine per cent group B, and three per cent group AB.

While the researchers planned to start by sampling DNA from mosquitoes and leeches - both organisms that degrade blood - they ultimately found likely candidates in the human gut flora.

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.

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The gut bug enzymes remove markers from the surface of the donor red blood cells present in type A but not in type O.

Researchers in the U.S. said the transformation is up to 30 times more efficient than previously studied enzymes and will soon start work on clinical trials. That's why O blood type donations are so important: as their red blood cells contain no A or B antigens, the antibodies of other groups won't attack them. And after the antigen stripping is completed, any leftover enzyme can be easily removed from the red blood cells with a simple washing step, he said. Experts from the American chemical society have discovered an enzyme that can fix this situation.

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. They were especially in need of O-type blood since it can be administered to any patient, increasing their chances of survival in emergency cases. Withers said discovery could ease such pressures in the future.

"I am optimistic that we have a very interesting candidate to adjust donated blood to a common type", Withers said.

The American Red Cross states that there are very specific ways in which blood must be donated to ensure safety.

"Hopefully what it would do is loosen up the blood supply, in a sense: make it more broadly available", Withers said.