Blood transfusion is one of the most common treatments given to thalassemia patients or to those who suffer huge blood loss during an accident or injury. For this reason, the blood type of donor and recipient should be same.
Different tests are done to cross match the blood of donor and recipient to minimize the threat of immune responses. Sometimes the blood types of donor and recipient are not matched or the required blood group is not available at the moment, due to which patients lose their lives. But scientists have found a solution to this problem and this is not going to be a life-threatening issue in near future.
Now scientists have found that certain bacteria present in the gut of humans produce an enzyme that can change your blood type. There are four basic types of blood; blood group A, blood group B, blood group AB and blood group O. The blood groups A and B are very specific for the antigens that are present on the RBCs, whereas people having blood group AB are universal recipients and those having blood group O are universal donors.
These blood groups are differentiated on the basis of sugars present on the red blood cells. Blood groups A, B and O almost have same basic structure. The difference is the additional residue of the sugar that is present on the terminals of the basis sugar structures. Blood group A has N-acetylgalactosamine residue and blood group B has galactose residue. The additional residue of sugar is arranged or tacked on the basic sugar structure in different ways and gives rise to the sub-types of blood groups A and B.
A biochemist, Stephen Withers at the University of British Columbia, reported at the meeting of American Chemical Society in Boston that recent studies show that the enzymes present in gut help bacteria to eat mucins, a sugar studded protein which resemble antigens of red blood cells in their structure. So, in this way enzymes can perform double duty at a time.
They eat mucins and also pluck off the terminal sugars to change the blood groups A or B to blood group O, making the person a universal donor. This enzyme is found to be much more efficient than the enzymes used for this purpose previously.
Dr. Alyssa Ziman who is the director of transfusion medicine at UCLA Health said that the challenge we are facing is that the procedure used to alter the blood type is too expensive. To make it practically use, it must be economical. Withers said that the enzymes he discovered with his team could be used in clinic eventually.
The changing of blood type is a great discovery by the scientists and it deserves appreciation as it will reduce the risk for the patients who need the blood regularly or for those who need it urgently. It will ultimately save many lives in near future.
Hafiza Azka Kainat & Hamnah Sohail