Friday, February 24, 2012

Know your blood type? Think again.

I have not abandoned you, dear readers! Nor has the amazing world of biology had any shortage of wonderful new discoveries! I have simply been away on a European holiday, and was too busy sight-seeing to sit down at my computer.

When I opened up my favorite science websites today, a story popped out at my in less then 20 seconds. Two new blood types, Langereis and Junior (+ or -), have been identified (Blood Mystery Solved: Two New Blood Types Identified). These blood types reside mainly in Japanese populations, as well as in certain European gypsies. As many of you know, the most common blood types are A, B, AB, and O. These refer to the specific proteins found on the surface of your blood cells.

The February issue of Nature Genetics presents a study by Helias et al that identifies two new proteins, ABC6 and ABCG2 (proteins responsible for Langereis and Junior blood types). This is significant as the last blood proteins were discovered ten years ago, and this brings the total surface protein number to 32.
While these two blood types are rare, the proteins have been found to carry cancer drug resistance. This may have large implications in how we prescribe cancer treatments.

You may be surprised to learn that beyond the typical blood types, there are 8 others, which have names such as Duffy, Diego, and Lutheran. Langereis and Junior now will join this list. Knowing the exact blood type is important for transfusions, as well as knowing the compatibility of a fetus with the mother. Rejection makes organ and tissue transplants difficult, as the immune system will attack the "non-self".

I cannot stress it enough how important it is that everyone know their blood type. Transfusions are as common as colds in medicine, especially if trauma is being treated. One does not need an auto-immune attack that could result in death on top of the injuries one is suffering. Please be as aware as you can about your own biology to avoid any unpleasant side effects.

Original Paper:
 Virginie Helias, Carole Saison, Bryan A Ballif, Thierry Peyrard, Junko Takahashi, Hideo Takahashi, Mitsunobu Tanaka, Jean-Charles Deybach, HervĂ© Puy, Maude Le Gall, Camille Sureau, Bach-Nga Pham, Pierre-Yves Le Pennec, Yoshihiko Tani, Jean-Pierre Cartron, Lionel Arnaud. ABCB6 is dispensable for erythropoiesis and specifies the new blood group system Langereis.

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