Blood Type Switcheroo a Potential Game Changer for Blood Donation

University of BC Technique Can Produce Universal Donor Blood

A new technique out of the University of British Columbia holds the promise of changing the way blood can be donated.

Scientists at UBC have announced a breakthrough that allows them to convert all blood types into Type O. This is the universal blood type that all patients can receive in a transfusion, despite their own blood type.

“When seconds count… that’s when hospitals are going to use O negative blood.”

Adrienne Alexander, Canadian Blood Services

According to researchers, this technique involves using certain enzymes from gut bacteria (found in the human digestive tract) to strip away the certain kinds of sugars that make blood type A, B, or AB. Type O blood lacks those sugars.

Adrienne Alexander with the Canadian Blood Services says Type O blood is vital, especially in emergencies. “O negative blood is really the type that is often used in a trauma situation. When seconds count, someone’s life is on the line, perhaps they’ve just been in a vehicle accident or some other type of trauma, and there’s no time to check blood type, that’s when hospitals are going to use O negative blood.”

Alexander adds it can be hard to find that more flexible O negative blood. “Type O positive is the most common blood type in Canada, but O negative is one of the least common blood types in Canada. The O negative is really what we need when those emergency situations arise.”

While O negative is most sought after, those with any blood type are encouraged to donate

While this breakthrough may one day make blood donation a cinch, Alexander encourages those who can donate to roll up a sleeve now, regardless of blood type. “Although O negative is universal, we always need all blood types.”