‘Stealth’ technology could mean universal blood transfusions—regardless of blood type

blood

Scientists have created a “stealth” red blood cell that camouflages its immune status, meaning it could potentially be transfused into anybody in an emergency, regardless of their blood type.

The finding, published in Science Advances, promises to shake up my own former field of emergency medicine, where treating people who have lost litres of blood from shootings, stabbings and road trauma is all in a day’s work.

“O neg” blood is annoyingly rare – only about nine per cent of people have it. And when people stop donating blood, during a coronavirus epidemic for example, stockpiles can plummet.

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Enter a team of researchers led by Ben Wang at Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China.

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They took Rh positive human red blood cells and coated them with a hydrogel sheath, anchored to the surface of the cell. Their goal was twofold: they wanted to hide the red cell’s Rh status from the immune system and do it in a way that didn’t render the cell useless in terms of carrying oxygen.

Wang’s group ran the robo red cell through its oxygen-carrying paces and found that it took up and delivered oxygen with almost precisely the same dynamics as a real cell.

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