universal blood type

Toronto researchers help create a universal blood type and it could revolutionize transplants

Researchers in Toronto have helped to create a potentially life-saving universal blood type for organ transplant surgery.

A study published today in Science Translational Medicine found that it's possible to convert the blood type in donor organs to a universal type O, according to researchers from Toronto's University Health Network (UHN), Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratories and the University of British Columbia (UBC).

People with rare blood types or other physical challenges often stay on long waitlists for transplants.

"This research is really a game-changer in organ transplantation," Aizhou Wang, the lead author of a paper told STAT.

The study was done in Toronto at Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratories. Researchers treated eight lungs that weren't suitable for transplant with special enzymes, making them compatible with recipients of any blood type.

Antigens on the surface of red blood cells determine blood types —type A blood has the A antigen, B has the B antigen, AB blood has both antigens and O has none, UBC notes.

Antigens can trigger an immune response if they are foreign. The same is true for organs — so donors and recipients are matched based on blood type and other criteria.

Patients who are type O often wait on average twice as long to get a donor match. A person waiting for a kidney transplant will be on the waitlist for an average of four to five years, compared to two to three years for types A or AB.

"With the current matching system, wait times can be considerably longer for patients who need a transplant depending on their blood type," Dr. Marcelo Cypel, surgical director of the UHN Ajmera Transplant Centre and the senior author of the study told UBC Science.

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