Scientists Successfully Converted Type A Blood To Universal Blood In Major Breakthrough

This is going to save lives.

University of British Columbia researchers in Canada say they have successfully converted Type A blood to O negative, a universally accepted blood type.

The news could mean doubling the amount of blood available for patients across America. Right now, just seven percent of people in the United States have O negative blood, which leaves a much higher demand than supply for blood donations.

"This is a first, and if these data can be replicated, it is certainly a major advance," Harvey Klein, a blood transfusion expert at the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, told Science Magazine.

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There are four common blood types: A, B, AB, and O. All the blood types except for type O have antigens that will activate the immune system to attack different blood types. So if a person with type A blood gets type B blood, the immune system will turn on it. That makes universal blood extremely valuable for hospitals, emergency rooms, blood transfusions, and blood donations. 

Researchers experimented with removing those antigens from type A blood, but have been largely unsuccessful. But, after years of testing, the researchers at the University of British Columbia discovered an enzyme in human gut bacteria that could attach itself to type A blood and remove the dangerous antigens.  

Researchers still need to make sure that the enzymes didn't remove any other necessary elements of the blood, but they are calling the findings promising and say it's a major breakthrough towards broadening the supply of blood everywhere. In January, the Red Cross issued an urgent call for blood donations, saying it collected 27,000 fewer blood and platelet donations than it needed.

Every year, organizations like the Red Cross plea for more blood. With this new research, they may be able to stop the shortages from happening. 

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