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Major Step Toward Changing Blood Types Made

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 02:27PM

There are many reasons people may need a blood transfusion, and hopefully none of us will ever experience one of those reasons. In the event someone does need a transfusion though, it is imperative the donor blood is of a useable type, which can be a problem if supplies are limited. Researchers the world over have been working to solve that problem, and those at the University of British Columbia have made a significant leap towards such a solution.

There are various types of blood that are separated by the sugars, or antigens, connected to the cells. Type O lacks these components, which is why it is known as the universal donor, as people with other types of blood can accept it. Naturally a means to convert Type A or B blood to Type O would be desirable, and this is exactly what the British Columbia researchers have been working on. An enzyme to remove the A and B antigens already exists, but the researchers applied directed evolution to make it more efficient. Directed evolution involves inserting mutations into the gene and then selecting the mutant versions with the desired effect. After just five generations the enzyme became 170 times more effective.

While the new enzyme is significantly more effective at removing the antigens, it is not perfect, and the immune system is so sensitive to blood groups that only complete removal can be used in clinical settings. That means that this research will not directly lead to results at blood banks, but to more research that hopefully will, which the researchers are confident of.

Source: University of British Columbia

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