More type O to go around

Janet Babin Apr 3, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: Blood donation centers always seem to be short on blood, right? Well, the truth is, usually there’s enough blood, it’s just not the right type. But we may have a breakthrough on this — a way to convert any blood type to a universal match. Janet Babin reports from our Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.

JANET BABIN: Blood supplies tend to be erratic. That’s because it’s hard to predict what type of blood will be needed most, where, at any given time.

In an emergency, hospitals use O, because it’s universally accepted, so O is typically in high demand worldwide.

Now researchers have identified new enzymes that could increase the amount of O to go around, by essentially turning A, B or AB blood into group O.

Doug Clibourn of ZymeQuest financed the new enzyme technology. He says the converted O blood should hit the market in three years.

DOUG CLIBOURN: We have a lot of work still to do with clinical trials and process optimization and making it work properly and so forth.

The enzymes won’t be able to convert blood’s Rh, an antigen, or positive or negative factor. Only about 15 percent of donors have Rh-negative blood.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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