Health Care

Gut enzyme could open door for creation of universal blood donations

Gut enzyme could open door for creation of universal blood donations

"However, these new enzymes can do the job 30 times better".

That's the tantalizing question raised by a new study presented this week at the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Boston.

While type-O patients can receive only type-O red cell transfusions, type-O donations are compatible with all other ABO types. This could help scientists make universal donor blood from other blood types.

In contrast, type A, B and AB red blood cells have specific antigens on their surfaces, meaning that people with type A blood can donate only to type A or type AB recipients, and people with type B blood can donate only to those with type B or type AB.

Researchers have reportedly determined enzymes found in the human gut that could turn Type A and B blood into Type O, the so-called universal blood.

Now, however, Withers and his colleagues think they might have some good candidates.

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For this reason, Dr Stephen Withers, a professor in the department of chemistry at the University of British Columbia, says scientists have been trying to find a way to modify altered blood via enzymes.

The researchers found these enzymes with a method called metagenomics.

The plan is to do further testing on this gut enzyme in order to make sure there are no adverse side effects as a result of the process.

They found an entire family of enzymes that gut bacteria use to pluck sugars off mucins, which are the proteins that line the gut wall.

They found one enzyme in particularly that excelled at stripping away A antigens, and were able to combine it with one other enzyme to target B antigens from blood cells.

Mucins provide sugar residues that gut bacteria attach to and some of the mucin sugars resemble the structure of antigens on type A and B blood.

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For a blood transfusion to work, a lot of things have to go right. Experts from the American chemical society have discovered an enzyme that can fix this situation.

A challenge in altering blood types is that the procedure has to be economical on a unit-by-unit basis, said Dr. Alyssa Ziman, the director of transfusion medicine at UCLA Health. However, it was only able to convert B type blood and was considered too expensive to be viable.

"Expanding global blood supply is critical in light of growing populations and the frequency of natural disasters", said Withers, pointing out that both the U.S. Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services have recently made emergency appeals for blood donations.

"The next step is very much all about safety", he said. This reason alone makes Type O blood a highly in demand blood type during emergencies, especially when there's limited time to test the patient's blood type to ensure it matches those of the donor's.

The thought of using biochemicals called enzymes to snip off those sugars is not a new one. It would be possible to alter blood on a bag-by-bag basis, he said.

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