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During his time in the trenches of the First World War, Dr. Ing. Lawrence Bruce Robertson, a Canadian surgeon who pioneered the blood transfusion method, found three men rupturing blood cells, multiple organ damage and eventually organ failure – symptoms of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).
It was a time before scientists identified the four major blood types in humans: A, B, AB, and O. The men Robertson had seen died from a violent reaction to the blood they were receiving , which was incompatible with her own blood type.
Type O can safely be administered to all blood groups.
We now know that type O blood, which is a recessive trait, is the "universal donor." If blood transfusion is necessary, those with blood type O must receive type O blood; on the contrary, type O can be safely administered to all blood groups. Now, in a new study, researchers report that they have used newly discovered gut bacteria enzymes to turn Type A blood into Type O faster than ever before. Omnipresent blood shortage could soon no longer exist.
"What we could do if this meets all safety regulations is to expand this reserve of available blood," Dr. Steve Withers, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of British Columbia and senior author of the new study he presented Tuesday at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Boston.
First developed by Jack Goldstein of the New York Blood Center, the idea of Converting A, B, or AB blood to O has been around for a while, says Chief Scientist of the Canadian Blood Services. Dana Devine, who was not involved in the new study. The challenge, she adds, has been to commercialize it.
"He has an enzyme that is much more active and you can use less of it," said Devine of Withers. "He may have the breakthrough to overcome the cost hurdle," she adds, referring to older methods with price tags that prevented them from becoming marketable.
Some enzymes from bacteria that can be cultured in a laboratory Wichers points out that the antigens or small sugar or protein molecules of Type A or Type B blood can be cut off by referring to Type O. (If an enzyme feeds on type A antigens) is paired with one that feeds on type B antigens, AB blood can be converted to O.) In a 2015 study reported in the Journal published by the American Chemical Society Withers and his team found that an enzyme was able to chew very slowly on type A antigens. The researchers manipulated evolution and optimized the enzyme by improving the ability to remove sugar molecules 170 fold.
But Withers, an enzymologist with 35 years of experience, suspected that nature – specifically the human gut – was even larger solution
"The human gut contains the A and B antigens," he said. "It would make sense that bacteria would develop to cut them off."
To see if this was the case, Withers and his team worked with Dr. Ing. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu, a pathologist at the Center for Blood Research, and the University of Withers, together with fellow Steven Hallam from British Columbia, a microbiologist and immunologist whose laboratory specializes in metagenomics, contrasting the study of genetic materials obtained directly from nature to those that were produced in a laboratory.
Microbes form the Earth's environment and their other organisms Hallam said, and there are many more of them than neurons and stars in the universe. "People are increasingly interested in tapping into the enormous diversity of life that provides a way to find enzymes and catalysts to solve global problems," he says.
With support from Hallam's lab, Wither's team searched human excrements to extract their bacterial DNA, then chopped the DNA into very large chunks containing an average of 20 to 30 genes. They inserted these genes into a notorious host that could easily be cultured in the laboratory E. coli . "And then," Withers said with a small chuckle, "we basically kept our fingers crossed, hoping that these genes could be encoded."
It worked. The intestinal enzymes were even more efficient than the ones the team had developed three years ago.
The potential importance to society is profound, Devine said. "It would allow blood systems to manage their industry a lot better, they're always fighting to get enough O blood – O donors – in the door," she said about donating blood.
In the case of an emergency transfusion, physicians automatically administer blood of blood group O to a patient; Taking time to do a screening could be life-threatening. Especially in the summer months, the donations for type O dispensers are therefore high. "People are on vacation and the general blood supply is starting to decline," says Devine. "Sometimes passenger demand increases, more traffic causes more accidents, everything goes wrong."
The new research is still in its infancy. Working with CDC and Canadian Blood Services, the team will need to conduct further in vitro tests to determine if Type A blood can be converted to O via gut microbial enzymes, which would remove the researchers from the bloodstream prior to administration of abnormal responses in patients. But if there were safety studies, including a phase 3 clinical trial, the social significance would be enormous.
"As scientists we do not often have the opportunity to make discoveries that have such a great human influence in the world, it is rare, it is a glorious thing, the idea of being able to do any kind of Taking blood and turning it into any shape would have huge health implications, literally saving lives, turning to the human body to find that solution is very elegant, "says Hallam. "It's just starting."