A step closer to universal blood transfusions

Canadian researchers have developed a way to hide blood cell types from the immune system. Is this the breakthrough needed for universal blood transfusions?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

The problem with blood transfusions is that you have to match types: people with AB positive blood can receive it from anyone, people with A negative blood can only receive O negative and A negative, and people with O negative blood can give it to anyone, but can only receive the same exact type.

If you don't make a match, the recipient's immune system kicks in, causing medical complications and even death.

But scientists say they've made an "important step" toward the development of a "universal blood product" that would eliminate the need to match donor and recipient types before transfusions.

It's called the "immunocamouflage" technique, and it hides blood cells from antibodies that could trigger that potentially fatal immune reaction.

McGill University professor Maryam Tabrizianand a team of researchers knew that matching 29 red blood cell types was not the easiest for critical care situations, and sought to create an all-purpose blood cell that would do the trick.

To develop it, the team developed a way to encase living, individual red blood cells within a multilayered polymer shell. The shell functions as a sort of cloaking device, making the cell nonreactive with a person's immune system.

The shell is permeable by oxygen, so the cell inside can function normally.

The authors write:

The optimized shell was composed of four bilayers of alginate (AL) and chitosan-graft-phosphorylcholine (CH-PC) surrounded by two bilayers of AL and poly-l-lysine-graft-polyethylene glycol (PLL-PEG). Experimental parameters, including the polyelectrolytes and RBCs concentrations and the cell handling and purification protocols, were optimized to achieve effective encapsulation of live and functional RBCs in suspension.

Their research appeared in the American Chemical Society journal Biomacromolecules.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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