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Successful study to change the blood type of donor kidneys means access for more BAME recipients

Published on 17/08/22 at 10:24am

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have successfully altered the blood type of donor kidneys in a study which could increase the number of the organs able to be used universally.


A blood type A donor kidney cannot be given to someone who’s type B, and vice versa, however changing the blood type of the kidney to O means it can be transplanted into anyone.


This is particularly important for BAME patients as they are more likely to have the rarer B-type blood group.


A normothermic perfusion machine, a device which passes oxygenated blood through a kidney to help preserve it, was used to flush blood infused with an enzyme through a donor kidney. The enzyme removes the blood type markers which line the blood vessels, in effect changing the blood type to O. Three kidneys were used in the study, and all were successfully changed within hours.


Serena MacMillan, a PhD student who worked on the study, said it was “very exciting to think about how this could potentially impact so many lives”.


BAME patients make up 33% of the kidney transplant waiting list, yet are often forced to wait an extra year longer than white patients for a transplant because of the blood-type incompatibilities. Organ donation rates are also lower from BAME populations; in 2020/21, just over 9% of total organ donations came from black and other ethnic minority donors.


However, there is still a way to go before the study results can be implemented into real-life cases. The next stage is to see how the kidneys react to the supply of O blood, where the problem of damage to the kidneys is prevalent.


Blood group is also only one of three ways kidneys are matched to patients, with tissue matching and cross matching still being a factor. Cross matching is where the blood of the donor, and of the recipient, are mixed to see if a reaction occurs.

James Spargo

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