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Researchers discover enzymes in human gut that can transform blood type

Researchers from the University of British Columbia have found two different types of enzymes which can together transform the blood group of type A to blood group of type O in the human gut biome. The study was published in the Nature Microbiology journal.

Blood can be grouped into four types, A, B, AB and O. Except for O blood group, the others are not compatible in blood group transfusions. O blood group can be transfused with the recipient and thus it is highly valuable. The blood groups differ in the sugar molecules that are called as blood antigens which stay on the surfaces of red blood cells. A-type blood has A-type antigens, B-type blood has B-type antigens and the AB blood type has both antigens on its surface. O type blood is different from all other blood groups since there is no antigen attached to its surface. If blood is found with an incorrect antigen then an immune response is initiated, but as O type RBCs do not have any antigen, there is no initiation of an immune response.

Previous research conducted by scientists at UBC showed that there are certain enzymes which can convert blood type of A, B or AB to O by removing antigens. However, in this current research, scientists found that two enzymes together can convert blood of type A to O type blood and that they are present in the human gut biome.


In the experiment, DNA was moved from uncultured bacteria to E.coli, then DNA was used for screening microbes which can remove the antigen from red blood cell’s surface. In the first phase, researchers did not find any microbes which can perform this task but then scientists identified two microbes which can do it together. The first enzyme, GalNAc deacetylase converted antigen to an amine while the second helped in removing the amine which resulted in the blood cell with no antigens attached to it which is, therefore, an O type blood cell.

Enzyme altered blood was tested by scientists before. It was tested in a small sample size of humans in the year 2000. However, that enzyme could only convert blood of type B which was quite expensive and not efficient for use in real life.

Altering the type of blood group has to be cheap on a unit-to-unit basis, otherwise, it is not much effective. However, the enzymes found this time can be used in a clinic and it makes blood alteration possible on a bag-by-bag basis.


About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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