Spain is the world leader in organ transplants, and yet many patients have to wait months to receive one.
The main reason is incompatibility. There are different blood groups, and a recipient can only receive an organ from a donor with a compatible blood type.
As New Atlas explains, blood group is determined by red blood cell surface antigens. Those with type A blood have the A antigen, those with type B have the B antigen, ABs have both, and O’s have neither.
Type O is considered universal, because it does not have antigens that cause organ rejection, if the recipient is A, B, or AB.
A group of scientists from various institutions in Canada has been developingan enzyme-based treatment, which basically dissolves the antigens of donated organs, converting their blood cells into type O strong>, which allows them to be transplanted into any patient, regardless of their blood type.
What they have done is extract two enzymes from the human gut, known as FpGalNAc deacetylase and FpGalactosaminidase, which have long been known to convert type A blood cells to type O.
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They tested these enzymes in two unusable lungs for transplantation, and managed to eliminate 97% of type A antigens.
“Having universal organs means that we could eliminate the blood compatibility barrier and prioritize patients based on their medical urgency, saving more lives and wasting fewer organs“, explained Dr. Marcelo Cypel, one of the authors of the experiment.
This is great news, although as always happens in these cases, many more tests still need to be carried out before it is finally approved as a conventional treatment for organ transplants.