Science Reporting

Scientists convert type A blood into universal blood by means of intestinal bacteria

The problem with blood donation very often does not lie in the lack of donors but in the lack of compatible blood. For a transfusion to be successful, the blood of the donor and the recipient must be compatible. The differentiations are established on the basis of particular sugar molecules on the surface of the red blood cells and if a person receives non-compatible blood special blood antigens are set in motion causing the immune system to eliminate it.

However, type O blood lacks these antigens and is therefore considered as “universal” because it can also be donated to patients with blood groups A, B and AB. It is in fact quite important in cases of first aid, that is in those cases in which it is not possible to use compatible blood but it is necessary to perform an emergency transfusion. Blood group O is, however, much rarer than the others.

Now, a new research group has tried to transform type A blood into universal blood by removing its own antigens using enzymes present in particular bacteria living in the human intestine.

These bacteria usually attach themselves to the internal walls of the intestine to feed on mucinae, particular substances coated with sugars and proteins. These sugars are very similar to those that differentiate blood groups.

Based on this knowledge, the research group of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, has cut pieces of DNA of the intestinal bacterium in question, the Flavonifractor plautii, performing laboratory tests to understand the feasibility of induced removal of these sugars.

The researchers were successful: the enzymes of the bacteria also performed their work in human blood. These results are very promising in relation to the possibility of creating universal blood from major blood groups, although much more work and research is needed to safely remove all antigens.

Science Reporting

Portable DNA sequencers will allow millions of new species to be discovered

Today, determining the existence of new animal species has become easier because it is “enough” to identify the DNA profile to be sure of being faced with a new species, a differentiation that until a few years ago could only be made after long and difficult tests.

However, DNA analysis is a process that can only be carried out in the laboratory, which means that researchers who go “on an adventure,” ie those who wander around the various habitats and environmental ecosystems in search of new species, may find it very difficult to capture the species and take them to the laboratory for analysis.

It is in this context that a project carried out by researcher Paul Hebert of the University of Guelph in Canada could prove very important. The researcher, together with his team, will lead various expeditions that will use a sort of portable genomic laboratory that will allow you to analyze the samples “in the field.” The researchers intend to identify more than 2 million new species of multi-cellular creatures in a global effort funded to the tune of 180 million dollars.

“Biodiversity science is entering a very golden age,” Hebert himself says in an article on the Science website. To understand if a specimen is part of a new species could take away now only a few hours of time and especially a few cents in cost.

It will be a sort of analysis like the one done with bar codes, in this case done with portable DNA sequencers, fast and cheap: just analyze a single portion of DNA and find the markers of differentiation of the species.