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Universal Blood
Researchers have found a way to efficiently convert different human blood types into a neutral type that can be given to any patient

Source: “Bacterial Glycosidases for the Production of Universal Red Blood Cells”
Qiyong Liu et al.
Nature Biotechnology 25: 454-464

Results: An international team of researchers has created universal blood cells–blood that can be given to people of any blood type. The researchers developed the universal blood by using enzymes to remove the cell-surface sugars that determine whether blood is type A, B, O, or AB. These sugars can trigger immune reactions in people whose blood cells don’t share them.

Why it matters: In emergencies, doctors often have to give patients blood transfusions without knowing their blood type. So emergency medical workers must use type O, which is universally compatible but often in short supply. The new technology could make any donor’s blood universally compatible.

Methods: The researchers screened different enzymes for their ability to efficiently cleave off the complex sugars on the surfaces of red blood cells. They identified two bacterial enzymes that cleave only A- or B-type sugars, leaving other sugars on the blood cells’ surfaces intact.

Next steps: Blood processed us­ing the sugar-cleaving enzymes is currently in early phase II clinical trials in the United States. ZymeQuest, a startup based in Beverly, MA, that is commercializing the universal-blood technology, has developed a machine that uses the enzymes to process blood quickly. The company expects that if all goes well, its blood-­processing ­machines will be on the market in ­Europe in 2011 and in the United States a few years later.

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Credit: Macmillan Publishers LTD.: Nature 446(7136), Copyright 2007/Alexander Gottschalk

Tagged: Biomedicine

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