More Lives Can Be Saved – Scientists Created Universal Blood


Researchers Developed Enzyme That Can Convert Any Blood Type Into Universal Donor.

Sometimes, when something bad happen, hospitals often do not have enough of certain blood type and the patient can die. But this is no longer a concern, because scientists made a huge breakthrough.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and it describes how they modified an enzyme to snip off the antigens from type A and B blood and they made it more like the universal donor type 0.


The antigens A and B are sugars that are carried on the surface of the red blood cells. The combination of these two antigens (blood cells have one), give us the four principal blood types: A, B, AB and 0. This is the factor, that determine what blood you can accept and who you can give blood to. 0 can be given to anyone because the blood cells do not have any antigen.

blood type

ABO blood group antigens present on red blood cells. Source

The idea of trying to convert the blood into “universal blood” has been around since the 1980s, when a team in New York was able to demonstrate that the enzyme from green coffee bean was able to remove B antigens from the red blood cells. After clinical trials shown that the blood can be safely transfused to people of a different blood group. However, the reaction was too inefficient, because large volume and very high temperature were needed in order to convert all the blood cells.


But scientists from University of British Columbia have created an enzyme that can solve this problem. It does work in same way, stripping the antigens from the top and effectively turning blood types A and B into 0. Steve Withers and his team created this enzyme in process known as directed evolution. This method is based on natural selection and they started with original enzyme. The mutations were inserted into the gene and again and again until they were able to make the enzyme 170 times more effective in just 5 generations.

However, the job is not done yet. Even though the enzyme can remove majority of antigens from blood types A an B, the cannot remove all of them. And the immune system is incredibly sensitive, even the smallest amount can trigger and immune response. 


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Michaela Miklusak

Michaela Miklusak is deputy editor of and big technology enthusiast. Michaela now lives in Singapore, where she studies System Engineering and Informatics.

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