Saturday, February 9, 2008

Life Saving Blood - Pump Up The Supply

Our blood, like our DNA, makes us unique. We carry antigens (and many other defining substances) on our red blood cells that designate our blood type. But lets just talk about simple antigen distinctions. Type A Blood carries A antigens, Type B has B antigens and Type O doesn't have any antigens at all.

An easy lesson in blood transfusion goes like this - I have Type B blood. If I am in an accident and need a transfusion, the doctor cannot give me blood from a Type A donor. My body would reject it, causing my red blood cells to clot. On the bright side, as long as there is Type B or Type O blood available then I will survive.

This goes for the Type A people. They need A or O donors. Type AB people need AB or O donors. Do you see a pattern here? Everyone can accept Type O blood. Ever heard the term universal donor? Well, that's the Type O person and they become very valuable resources to the local Red Cross or United Blood Services blood bank. Once a Type O person donates a pint of blood, they can expect a regular call asking for donations.

This is because most of us don't donate and the numbers of us that do donate are dwindling. Enter ZymeQuest, a biomedical company from Beverly, Massachusetts, to save the day. A team of scientists have developed a method to remove the identifying antigens from red blood cells, rendering every red blood cell Type O.

They are in the final testing phases and if all goes as planned the technology will be available to blood banks in the next 3-5 years. This is a real breakthrough - no more blood type shortages, no more mistyped transfusions, many more lives saved with the blood the banks have on hand. If you find this of interest, watch this short video of how the process is achieved. And if you still want to know more, read this cool list of 56 facts about blood and blood donation.

Once upon a time, I was a registered Medical Technologist. This is so fascinating to me because I remember toiling over vials of blood, adding reagents one after another, watching closely for clotting, and the stress I felt wondering if I'd performed the tests correctly. If I didn't, someone might die for my mistake.

Please understand that this new technology does not diminsh the need for blood donation. Blood banks will still need a steady stream of willing donors but they will be able to use their resources more efficiently and effectively to pass on our selfless gift of life.

God bless those who donate regularly. I'm sure the soliders in Iraq thank you and the families of accident victim thank you. We should consider it a civic duty to donate at least one pint a year. If we all did just that much....think about what it would mean to those in need.


Kali said...

Thanks for the reminder. Its been awhile since I donated and I can always use one of their sugar donuts!

Lisa McGlaun said...


It's been a while for me, too. I think it's time. What was exciting about this to me is the breakthrough in blood bank science. It's amazing that we can now change the composition of blood where not that many years ago blood was such a mystery.

Best Wishes,

WittyWriterGal said...

Way cool!

I donate on a regular basis, I am A + but have tested negative for a common virus, and ARC loves calling me every 6 weeks.

Great reminder post~~

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kathy,
I donate blood and platelets on a regular basis. Platelets are always in demand. On person can donate up to three units of, platelets which will always be used withing five days. If platelets were "Spun down" from donated whole blood, it would tale sixteen pints of blood from sixteen people to create one unit of platelets. I donate up to two to three units (depending on how I yield in the ninety minute period needed to donate) and I generally donate platelets once a month in addition to my regular whole blood donation. It is not pleasant, can be very uncomfortable, and can leave your arms bruised. I could donate more, but I can't tolerate needles in both arms for too long. I am also registered din the National Bone Marrow Database. I do this because some wonderful and anonymous and generous folks took the time to donate platelets which my mother needed to help her fight her myriad of diseases towards the end of her life. Now it is my turn to give back. Your post here is an important one, and donations are always needed. Whenever I feel uncomfortable donating platelets I think of the folks who are suffering who need them to live, then I am inspired to do more. Thank you for giving me the opportunity here to make my case too.

wendy said...

Excellent article.

I thank you as well for reminding others to donate blood

Having been on the receiving end I am grateful to those whe take time to do so

La delirante said...

I saw that here in Malta they were asking for people to donate blood because they really need it. I get however extremely weak at the mere "thought" of blood and I kind of faint :(

Lisa McGlaun said...


I am so happy to see you commenting here! I've followed your comments on Heather's blog and love reading what you have to say.

Way to go for being a regular donor..:)


Lisa McGlaun said...


Yes, platelet donation is very important, expecially to the cancer patients who benefit the most.

It's a long process and requires having a needle in each arm, like you said. No everyone is up for it but for those who are it's a wonderful gift to someone in need.

Thanks for pointing that out and God Bless you for doing so on a regular basis.

One other type of donation that is worth pointing out is autologous..which means that if you know you are going to have surgery, let's say heart surgery, you can donate your own blood to be given to you if the need arises.

My mother did that before her open heart surgery and it worked out very well for her.

Hugs for all your good deeds,

Lisa McGlaun said...


You are welcome and I think it's good for people who donate to hear from those who have received the gift.

Then we know what we are doing is truly worth while.


Lisa McGlaun said...


I think there are many people have that problem. There are so many things you can do in this world to help people, I wouldn't worry if giving blood is just not your thing..:)

Anyway, I get the sense that you are a very generous person and would help someone else in a heartbeat. The first time I gave blood I So I know how you feel.


kebelle said...

i am reminded of donating blood too...

Lisa McGlaun said...


Thanks for the comment. I read your blog the other day and really enjoyed it.

I like your focus on the spiritual.

Best Wishes,