People with blood type O are said to be universal donors. When it comes to blood donations, type O patients can receive blood only from individuals with blood group O. But such individuals can donate blood to anybody, irrespective of the recipient’s blood type (A, B, O or AB). As part of a recent research, scientists, from the Center for Blood Research and the University of British Columbia, have devised a technique by which all blood types can be changed into O, with the help of a specific enzyme.
People with blood group O, while less in number, have the life-saving responsibility of donating blood, when needed. A and B blood types contain an additional sugar molecule, called antigen, attached to the surface of their red blood cells (RBCs). By contrast, what makes type O more transfusion-friendly is the fact that it is completely devoid of any such antigens. ABO incompatibility, during blood transfusion, could prove to be fatal, as it elicits severe immune-related responses in the recipient’s body.
By developing the technology needed to transform all blood groups into type O, researchers would be able to make the process of blood transfusion far easier and safer. Although scientists have been trying to produce blood with fewer A and B antigens in the laboratory, for quite some time now, this research marks the first time that the approach has yielded startlingly accurate results. Here, a special enzyme, derived from bacteria, is used to delete the extra sugar molecule, or antigen, off the surface of the red blood cells.
For the study, the team has adopted a high-specialized technique, known as directed evolution. In order to make the enzyme more effective, the scientists introduce a series of mutations into the bacteria’s DNA responsible for the synthesis of the particular enzyme. The process is repeated for up to five generations. According to the team, the mutated enzyme is 170 times more efficient and accurate, at clipping off antigens, than its original form.
While the modified enzyme is capable of eliminating most antigens, the treated blood isn’t always a perfect O. Currently, the researchers are working on further improving the enzyme’s efficacy in removing the antigens bound the the surface of the red blood cells.
Via: Popular Science