Gut enzyme could open door for creation of universal blood donations

Researchers at Vancouver-based University of British Columbia discovered a new method to create Type O blood, using an enzyme found in the human stomach, according to research presented at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting Aug. 21 in Boston.

The researchers found specific enzymes from gut bacteria can strip antigens from the surface of red blood cells in Type A blood donations, essentially transforming it to Type O blood.

"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. That’s why O blood is so important," said lead researcher Stephen Withers, a professor of chemistry at UBC.

The process could create a safe and reliable blood source for emergency blood transfusions, without adverse immune reactions.

With aid from the Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia, the researchers are applying for a patent on their new enzyme research and are testing more blood samples before beginning clinical trials.

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