Our Gut Bug Enzyme Might Be The Key to Making The Universal Donor Blood Type O Abundant

in esteem •  last month
Our Gut Bug Enzyme might just make blood group O (-) more abundant. Good news yeah? Blood group O (-) is one of the rarest blood group in the world next to blood group AB (-) and B (-). The rarity of this blood group poses a problem in the health sector because it’s a universal donor and usually in high demand; another problem is that it’s a sole receiver as people with blood group O (-) can only receive blood donation from themselves. Some of us reading this article might have lost loved ones due to lack of blood and blood donors due to their blood group type and rarity, which makes this discovery a very good one. A clinical trial of this gut enzyme treatment of the blood has not been carried out yet but it seems to be a very promising project. This treatment had been carried out in the laboratory and it was a success as the enzymes used was able to completely change blood group A to blood group O. Dr Steven Withers is the medical practitioner from University of British Colombia, that’s actually carrying out this study in order to make the universal blood group donor more abundant.
(License: Public Domain, Author; InvictaHOG CC BY-SA 3.0]: wikicommons

The image above shows the blood group system where the red balls represent the red blood cells. As you can see, these red balls have different alphabets written on them representing blood group O, A, B and AB respectively. Also, there are also hexagons with different with each unique colour representing a unique sugar; Purple hexagon represents the sugar N acetyl-galactosamine, maroon hexagon represents the sugar Fucose, blue hexagon represents the sugar N acetyl-glucosamine and the peach coloured hexagon represent the sugar, Galactose.

These groupings of different sugars to around the red blood cells from different antigens which are then classified as antigen O, A, B and AB according to the sugar combination around the red blood cell. If you look at this image again you’ll understand what I’m trying to say, the type O antigen consists of Fucose, N acetyl-glucosamine, and two Galactose. If you take a look at the Type A antigen you’ll notice that the sugar components that type O is comprised Type O are the same with type A just with something extra which is the purple hexagon that represents the sugar N acetyl-galactosamine. Type B antigen also has the same sugar composition with type O but Instead of having two Galactose like type O it has three Galactose. Type AB antigen as the name may imply, is a combination of type A and type B Antigen on one red blood cell with type A on the right and type B on the left accordingly.

If we want to change from either of these types to type O, excluding type AB as you can see in the image above would be a lot of trouble. Looking at the image the most realistic way to change type A to type O is by removing the purple hexagon which represents the sugar N acetyl-galactosamine and to change type B to type O is by adding another molecule of the sugar, galactose to the picture which would seem to cause a little problem too like the type AB. The more feasible blood group that can be conveniently changed to type O at this point is type A which requires, simply removing the purple hexagon representing N acetyl-galactosamine from the picture. This process of removing N acetyl from type A antigen is required to be done in a very conducive environment so that the red blood cell is not affected in the process. This is where the enzymes come in, as they are the naturally existing and most popular biological catalysts.

(License: Public Domain. Author; Indolences CC BY-SA 3.0]: wikicommons

They are the perfect element to use in this experiment as they are known to operate in very mild and conducive conditions which is what this reaction gives it. These scientists discovered that enzymes are the element to use in executing this experiment but the question was where they could find a perfect enzyme that would do for this experiment. They started to carry out research and discovered that these sugars attached to the red blood cells can also be found in the gut of humans.

The image above is a simple sketch of the human gut or the human gastrointestinal tract; In this gastrointestinal tract enzymes, sugars and bacteria are contained. These sugar structures stick to the gastrointestinal wall and the bacteria do the same and in the process, these bacteria feed on these sugar structure attached to the gut wall, as they feed these sugar structures are broken down with the help of enzymes present in the gut wall. These scientist carrying out the study thought that as these bacteria were feeding on the sugar and causing them to be broken down, these sugars were also breaking down and sticking to others which made them curious and they started testing enzymes present in the human gastrointestinal tract that helped in making that process a success. During the course of testing and experiments, they discovered a class of enzyme that was tested and proven to be as much as 30 per cent more efficient than the rest of the enzymes that they had found an tested.

(License: CC0]: Pixabay
As I write this article, this group of scientists have purified form of these special class of enzymes that would help in this process and are planning to produce more of this class of enzyme. This sounds like a very good plan and project because it would really help the health sector in many ways like reducing the scarcity of the universal donor type blood which is type O, specifically type O (-) but we are yet to know the adverse effect of this experiment on the human body. As we know, the fact that the experiment was successful in the laboratory doesn’t mean it will be successful when it’s tried on the human body because the human body is much more complex. If the clinical trial of this experiment turns out to be a success it would be a blessing to humanity and would save a lot of lives. My childhood friend at one point lost his father because of this same problem of scarcity of a blood type.

His father was a type AB- minus and did not have anyone around with the perfect blood type and the local hospital he was taken to at that time was out of blood, before they could find someone or where to get his blood type, his father had already given up the ghost. Another story related to this one is of my friend who lost his sister who was O- and didn’t have anyone with her blood type to donate blood to her. The hospital she was taken to was of no use because they could not find her a donor or get from the blood bank to him on time. There are many cases and sad stories of people dying because of the scarcity of blood due to their blood type or group which could be a thing of the past if the experiment of Dr Steven Withers and his group of Medical Practitioners turns out to be a huge success.

Further Reading

Gut bug enzyme turns blood into type -O
A gut enzyme could turn your blood group from type A to precious Type O
Gut Bacteria provides key to making universal blood type

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August 20th Withers, however, said that the enzymes his team discovered could eventually be used in the clinic. It would be possible to alter blood on a bag-by-bag basis, he said.

"You could see this being put into the bag at the time of collection, just sitting there doing its job," Withers said during the press conference. The next step, though, will be investigating the enzymes for safety — a project Withers and his colleagues have already begun in collaboration with hematologists and Canadian Blood Services, the nonprofit that manages Canada's supply of donor blood.


It could be eventually used but hasn’t been tried yet. The human body is much complex and may not give us the same results gotten from the experiment in the laboratory. I hope it turns out to be a success


You might be interested to listen to Stephen Withers talk about his work on a recent CBC broadcast http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/ubc-researchers-have-found-a-way-to-convert-any-blood-type-to-the-universal-o-1.4795975

If this is successfully implemented and becomes widely available and acceptable, it will be a major stride forward for science.

Great post!

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