Major Scientific Breakthrough Uses Gut Bacteria to Convert Blood Type A Into Universal Donor Blood

4Scientists tried converting blood type A

Answering this problem of the short supply of universal blood, scientists tried to transform Type A blood which is the second most common blood type into a universal nature by removing its antigens that define blood. They were successful to a certain point only simply because they lacked sufficient enzymes that had the power to strip red blood cells of the problematic antigens. It was not an economical prospect either.

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54 years with no success

Scientists spent 4 years trying to work on the enzymes until there was a breakthrough. A team led by scientist Stephen Withers who is a chemical biologist at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada got the idea of researching human gut bacteria for a better option. They found that there are microbes in the gut bacteria that are habituated in attaching themselves on the gut wall where they consume mucins that are sugar protein combos which also line the gut wall. Mucin sugars are very similar to the antigens found in red blood cells.

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6It was then that human stool yielded results

Postdoc at UBC Peter Rahfeld then isolated DNA from a sample of human stool that had genes which could encode the bacterial enzymes that ate and digested mucins. The DNA was mixed and then loaded in copies of E Coli which is a bacterium that is used commonly in Labs. They wanted to see if the microbes started producing the same proteins that digested mucins and if they had the ability to also remove the sugars that defined the blood type A.

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