Researchers Have Successfully Converted Type A Blood To Type O
A huge number of people perish each year across the globe due to a shortage of blood transfusion stocks. On paper, almost 55 million litres of blood is donated annually worldwide, but in reality, incompatibility between the blood types implies that a person may not always receive a transfusion. However, researchers at the University of British Columbia have discovered a method using which type A blood can be converted into type O universal blood type.
Type O blood is compatible with anyone who has Rhesus (Rh) positive blood. Hence, it is considered as the universal blood type, since it can be transfused with anyone who has A+, B+, AB+, or O+ blood, which comprises about 75% of the total population. Postdoctoral researcher Peter Rahfeld has discovered a way via which enzymes can be used to transform type A red blood cells into universal type O blood cells. As per reports, this development can potentially double the stock of transfusion blood in the world.
If a person with type A blood is accidentally transfused with type B blood, the B antigens present in the transfused blood would cause the anti-B antibodies to attack the blood cells in a fatal manner, which would consequently result in the death of the person. On the other hand, type O red blood cells don’t have both the A and B antigens on their surface, instead, they harbour a neutral “H” antigen instead. This means anyone can be compatible with the aforementioned blood type.
In order to convert blood types, the lead researcher and his team have made use of a bacterial enzyme that resides in the human gut to remove all traces of A antigens simply by converting them into H antigens. They further identified genes that encode two enzymes which can remove facilitating components of the A antigen. When the enzymes were added to type A blood, they stripped the blood of all A type antigens, essentially converting them to Universal Type O cells. These findings may significantly increase the number of lives saved across the globe. However, it will take a fair share of time for this research to be applied to humans on a large scale.