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Sugar-cleaving molecule raises hope for universal blood

Enzyme from bacterium offers speed in making cells safer for transfusion

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7:00am, May 4, 2015
blood cell type enzyme

TYPE ALL  With engineering, a natural enzyme can better cut off some sugars that determine if a blood cell is type A, B or AB (as shown), resulting in a generic blood type that is safe for all people. 

By tweaking an enzyme borrowed from a bacterium, researchers have taken a step closer to creating blood that is safe for transfusing to all people, regardless of their blood type — A, B, AB or O.

Compared with the unaltered enzyme, designated Sp3GH98, the engineered version is 170 times faster at chopping apart certain sugar-based markers found on blood cells, researchers report online April 14 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Those sugars are signals of blood type; severing them transforms blood cells into a generic blood type that could be used universally for life-saving transfusions.

The natural enzyme, which researchers swiped from the pneumonia-causing bacterium Streptococcus pneumonia, is innately good at shearing the sugar markers that define blood cells as type B. But slow slicing of type A markers has been a sticking point for creating universal blood.

Type

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