Scientists in the UK were able to change the blood type of donor kidneys, paving the way for shorter wait times for ethnic minorities with failing kidneys.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge said they were able to alter the blood type of donor kidneys by using "molecular scissors", potentially increasing the supply of kidneys for those waiting for a transplant.
The breakthrough is of particular significance for British ethnic minorities who are less likely to find compatible kidney donations.
There are low levels of kidney donations among British ethnic minorities. A third of those on kidney transplant lists in 2020-21 were ethnic minorities, with around 9 percent of overall organ donations coming from ethnic minorities.
University of Cambridge researchers found a way to change the blood type to universal O, which can be used with any blood type.
Mike Nicholson of transplant surgery at the University of Cambridge, explained: “One of the biggest restrictions to whom a donated kidney can be transplanted is the fact that you have to be blood group compatible.
“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 via ethnicity and ethnic minority groups are more likely to have the rarer B type.”
Serena MacMillan, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, said: “By taking B type human kidneys and pumping the enzyme through the organ using our normothermic perfusion machine ["a device which connects with a human kidney to pass oxygenated blood through the organ to better preserve it for future use"], we saw in a matter of just a few hours that we had converted a B type kidney into an O type."
"It’s very exciting to think about how this could potentially impact so many lives.”
The research was funded by the charity Kidney Research UK, and is due to be published in the British Journal of Surgery.