Blood for universal transfusions might be sourced from gut bacteria

Researchers use gut bacteria to turn type A or B blood into universal donors

Researchers use gut bacteria to turn type A or B blood into universal donors

TUESDAY, Aug. 21, 2018 (HealthDay News) - An enzyme found in gut bacteria could convert type A blood into universal type O blood, a scientific feat that would significantly boost blood supplies, a new study suggests.

Withers is now working with colleagues at the Centre for Blood Research at UBC to test the enzymes on a larger scale, with the aim of then moving into clinical testing.

"Antigens can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body, so transfusion patients should receive either their own blood type, or type O to avoid a reaction", he said. Because blood type O does not contain any sugars, anyone is eligible to receive it.

After considering sampling DNA from organisms that degrade blood - like mosquitoes and leeches, the team realized that they could find the best candidate in the human gut microbiome.

"The idea was demonstrated for B blood back in 1982, but the enzymes they had available then were so slow and inefficient it was never going to be a practical approach", Withers said.

O-type blood has no antigens attached to it, which is why it can be donated to anyone without adverse effects.

Aside from turning blood Type A and B to universal blood type O, in what other ways could we rectify the growing demand for blood donations around the world?

In their new paper, which will be presented today at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Withers and his team will present an assessment of several new enzyme candidates for the job. This specific enzyme has been found to be 30 times more effective in removing antigens from the blood cells than all of the other enzyme options.

Using this approach, Withers and team were able to home in on enzymes used by bacteria to remove sugars from glycosylated proteins called mucins that line the gut wall.

The storms that ravaged the U.S. East Coast this year also drained the Red Cross' stocks of blood - so it issued an urgent call for donors.

"The next step is very much all about safety", he said.

Type O blood is especially important because it can be accepted by nearly all bodies, making it valuable for blood transfusions. 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.

Experts from the American chemical society was able to identify enzymes that can efficiently convert the second and third group of blood in the first. Withers noted this 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 says.

"Each and every day, individuals across the country depend on blood and platelet donations for lifesaving treatments and emergency care, so it's critical that people donate now to meet these needs", Cliff Numark, senior vice president, Red Cross Blood Services, said in a statement.

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