Researchers have reportedly determined enzymes found in the human gut that could turn Type A and B blood into Type O, the so-called universal blood.

In a breakthrough study that could solve the blood shortage problem around the world, Canadian scientists have reportedly identified a human gut substance that could be used to make the universal blood Type O. This discovery has the potential to make blood donations simpler during emergency situations.

To date, people with Universal Blood Type O- are considered universal donors because they have the capability to donate their blood to anyone. This reason alone makes Type O blood a highly in demand blood type during emergencies, especially when there’s limited time to test the patient’s blood type to ensure it matches those of the donor’s.

For the past years, researchers have tried to find the safest and most effective way to remove the antigens from blood Type A and Type B that prevent them from being donated to non-matching blood types.

“We have been particularly interested in enzymes that allow us to remove the A or B antigens from red blood cells,” Stephen Withers, one of the researchers from the University of British Columbia, said in a statement“If you can remove those antigens, which are just simple sugars, then you can convert A or B to O blood.”

Withers collaborated with a colleague who uses metagenomics to study ecology from the UBC to asses all potential enzyme candidates.

“With metagenomics, you take all of the organisms from an environment and extract the sum total DNA of those organisms all mixed up together,” Withers went on to explain. “This is a way of getting that genetic information out of the environment and into the laboratory setting and then screening for the activity we are interested in.”

Read More: Researchers Create Nanorobots That Remove Toxins in Blood

Withers and his team initially considered analyzing mosquitoes and leeches for their study. However, they found the right candidates from the enzymes of bacteria found in the human gut. The same bacteria which also aid in our digestion.

An entire family of enzymes used by the gut bacteria in plucking sugar off mucins, the proteins that line the gut wall, were tested to know how well they could remove the sugary antigens on Type A and B blood. The researchers found that they are 30 times more effective than any previous candidates.

The result of Wither and his team’s study will be presented today at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

Aside from turning blood Type A and B to universal blood type O, in what other ways could we rectify the growing demand for blood donations around the world?

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