An important scientific advance was achieved by researchers at the University of Cambridge, since they have successfully altered the blood type of three kidneys of donors.
This opens up options to significantly improve the chances that patients waiting for a transplant will find a match.
A kidney from someone with blood type A cannot be transplanted into someone with blood type B, or vice versa.
But changing the blood type to universal O would allow more transplants to be done, as this can be used for people with any blood type.
To achieve this process they used a normothermic perfusion machine, a device that is connected to the kidney to oxygenate blood and flushing blood infused with an enzyme through the deceased donor’s kidney.
The enzyme removed blood-type markers that line the kidney’s blood vessels, leading the organ to become the more common type O.
Serena MacMillan, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, said: “Our confidence really increased after we applied the enzyme to a piece of human kidney tissue and saw very quickly that the antigens were removed. After this, we knew the process is feasible, and we just had to scale up the project to apply the enzyme to full-size human kidneys.
“By taking human type B kidneys and pumping the enzyme through the organ using our normothermic perfusion machine, we saw in a matter of a few hours that we had converted a type B kidney to a type O,” he said.
Professor Mike Nicholson, Professor of Transplantation Surgery at the University of Cambridge, added: “One of the biggest restrictions on who a donated kidney can be transplanted into is the fact that it has to be a blood group match. The reason for this is that you have antigens and markers on your cells that can be either A or B. Your body naturally produces antibodies against the ones you don’t have. Blood group classification is also determined through ethnicity and minority ethnic groups are more likely to have the rarer type B.”