WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
April 3, 2007 -- Scientists have found a way to convert blood types in a
test tube. If their approach works in people, it could be a boon to the blood
The news appears in Nature Biotechnology.
The four blood types are A, B, AB, and O. They are based on the
presence or absence of specific antigens -- foreign substances that cause the
production of antibodies. Blood type is inherited.
To avoid potentially deadly reactions, type A blood can only be given to
people with type A or type AB blood. Type B blood can only be given to people
with type B or AB blood.
Type O blood is often in demand because it can be safely used in any
Scientists have long looked for ways to make type A, type B, or type AB
blood compatible with anyone. But until now, those attempts have had limited
Now, scientists report success with a new technique tested in a lab.
The researchers studied 2,500 enzymes made by fungi or bacteria and found
two families of enzymes that make type A, type B, or type AB blood act like
type O blood.
Scientists working on the study included Qiyong Liu of ZymeQuest, the
Massachusetts-based company developing the enzyme technique.
Their technique needs further testing. But if it succeeds, it "would
substantially reduce pressure on the blood supply," states a Nature
The editorialists included Geoff Daniels, PhD, FCRPath, of the Bristol
Institute for Transfusion Sciences in Bristol, England.
SOURCES: Liu, Q. Nature Biotechnology, April 1, 2007; advance online
edition. Daniels, G. Nature Biotechnology, April 1, 2007; advance online
edition. News release, Nature Biotechnology. Hirsch, E.D. The New
Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
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