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Removing antigens from blood may enable it to be donated universally.

Scientists in Copenhagen say they have discovered how to convert blood from one group type to another. The researchers have discovered enzymes that can convert blood types A, B, and AB into the "universal" O type, which can be given to anyone. The researchers hope that the two bacterial glycosidase enzymes will improve erratic supplies of blood and increase the safety of transfusions. Clinical trials to promote the safety and effectiveness of the converted blood are being planned.

The ABO blood system is based on the presence of sugar-based antigens A and B on red blood cells. Type O blood cells do not have A or B antigens and can be transfused into anyone. Types A, B, and AB have antigens and cause life-threatening immune reactions if they are given to patients with a different blood group. The enzymes strip the A, B, and AB antigens from blood. Early clinical trials have shown that converted blood can be transfused safely into individuals with different blood groups.

Although antigen-stripping enzymes have been known to exist since 1982, the early enzymes were not very efficient. The researchers in the current study screened 2,500 bacteria and fungi for their ability to remove A and B antigens and found one that was 1,000 times as efficient as the earlier enzymes.

According to Martin Olsson, a member of the international research team, the greatest risk in blood transfusion is not the transmission of disease, but the accidental transfusion of the wrong blood type. Olsson said that the new enzyme technology will have the advantage of eliminating the risk of giving the wrong blood.

Early-stage clinical trials are under way; if they go well, blood centers could be using the new technology in a few years.

Liu, Q.P., Sulzenbacher, G., Yuan, H., Bennett, E.P., Pietz, G., Saunders, K., et al. (2007). Bacterial glycosidases for the production of universal red blood cells. Nature Biotechnology, 25, 454-464.

Deborah McBride, RN, MSN, CPON[R], Contributing Editor

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Title Annotation:JUST IN
Author:McBride, Deborah
Publication:ONS Connect
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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