Universal organ donation: blood type doesn’t matter

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THURSDAY February 17, 2022

It is possible to create “universal” donor organs that would eliminate the need to match the blood types of the transplant donor and recipient, the researchers report.

“With the current matching system, wait times can be significantly longer for patients who need a transplant based on their blood type,” said study lead author Dr. Marcelo Cypel, Surgical Director of the Ajmera Transplant Center, University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto.

“Having universal organs means we could break down the blood-matching barrier and prioritize patients by medical emergency, saving more lives and wasting fewer organs,” Cypel added. He is a thoracic surgeon at UHN, a professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in Lung Transplantation.

The researchers said their proof-of-concept study is an important step towards creating universal type O organs for transplantation.

The need to match donor and recipient blood types can lead to long waits for some people on transplant waiting lists. For example, patients with type O blood have to wait on average twice as long for a lung transplant as those with type A blood, according to study first author Aizhou Wang, a scientific associate at Cypel’s lab. .

“This translates into mortality. Type O and lung transplant patients have a 20% higher risk of dying while waiting for a compatible organ to become available,” Wang said in a press release from the UHN.

She cited other examples. A type O or B patient who needs a kidney transplant will wait an average of four to five years, compared to two to three years for type A or AB people.

“If you convert all organs to universal type O, you can eliminate this barrier completely,” Wang said.

Blood type is determined by antigens on the surface of red blood cells. In this study, researchers used an ex vivo lung perfusion system (EVLP), which is normally used to pump fluids through donor lungs to prepare them for transplantation.

But in this case, the study authors used type A human donor lungs that were not suitable for transplantation. One lung was treated with a group of enzymes to remove blood group determining antigens from its surface, while the other lung was untreated.

The team then added type O blood to the EVLP and found that the treated lungs were well tolerated while the untreated lungs showed signs of rejection.

The results were published on February 16 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The researchers are currently preparing a clinical trial proposal within the next 12 to 18 months.

More information

There’s more on organ transplantation at the United Network for Organ Sharing.

SOURCE: University Health Network, press release, February 16, 2022

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