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Not Your Type

Each person is born with one blood type — A, B, AB, and O — and it determines the type of blood they can receive in a transfusion. Inject them with the "wrong" type, and the reaction can be fatal.

However, anyone can receive type O blood in a transfusion. That makes it incredibly valuable, and now researchers have discovered a way to convert type A blood into this universal donor type — potentially doubling our supply of it in the process.

Antigen Stripper

The difference between the various blood types centers on the sugar molecules, or blood antigens, on the surface of the red blood cells.

If a person with blood type A receives a type B transfusion, their immune system will note the presence of the type B antigens and attack the blood cells. But because type O blood doesn't have any antigens, anyone can receive it.

Supply on Demand

In a study published on Monday in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers from the University of British Columbia detail their discovery of microbes in the human gut that produce two enzymes that efficiently strip type A blood of its antigens, transforming it into type O.

The team plans to conduct further studies to ensure the process removes all the blood antigens. If it does, all that converted type A blood would nearly double the amount of universal donor blood available — and we'd have the human gut to thank.

READ MORE: Type A blood converted to universal donor blood with help from bacterial enzymes [Science]

More on blood: An Enzyme Found in Our Guts Could Increase Our Blood Supply

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