Home » Discovered a new blood group: it’s called Er

Discovered a new blood group: it’s called Er

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Discovered a new blood group: it’s called Er

A new blood group has been discovered, it is called ‘Er’. This was revealed by a study by the English National Health Service Blood and Transplant (Nhsbt) published in the journal ‘Blood’.

The four major blood groups known are: A, B, 0 and AB. But there are several ways to group red blood cells based on differences in the sugars or proteins that line their surface, the antigens. Discovering a new blood group is important for doctors because in this way I can correctly diagnose a problem such as in the case of incompatibility between pregnant mothers and their baby. To date, the International Society of Blood Transfusion (Isbt) identifies 43 different classifications of blood group systems in humans.

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I study

According to the study, the blood group can cause immune cells to attack the mismatched cells, which happens when the blood groups are incompatible. Experts believe this could be very helpful for doctors when they have difficulty diagnosing their patient.

The deaths of two infants had encouraged scientists to research a rare blood group first identified in humans 40 years ago. The discovery more specifically concerns a specific subgroup of Er that now opens new doors to prevent similar tragedies in the near future.

Doctors focus on the ABO blood group systems and the Rh factor, a particular antigen (substance that induces a specific immune response from the body) that some have and others do not. In the first case we speak of positive Ph, in the second of negative Rh. Familiarity with the blood group and Rh factor systems are crucial in the case of blood transfusions.

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However, the wide variety of cell surface antigens and their variants make the situation much more complex, while little is known about their clinical impact. Most of the major antigens were identified in the early 20th century, Er was only identified in 1982.

The immune system

In 1988 the version called Erb was discovered. The Er3 code was used to describe the absence of Era and Erb. When a blood cell is in the presence of an antigen that our body has not classified as ours, our immune system is activated, sending antibodies to signal the destruction of the cells that contain the suspect antigen.

In rare cases, during pregnancy it can happen that the tissues of the fetus are recognized as foreign and therefore attacked. The generated antibodies pass through the placenta, leading to hemolytic disease in the unborn child. Nowadays, several methods are being implemented to prevent or treat hemolytic disease in newborns.

13 patients examined

The sporadic manifestation of these rare antibodies has made medical understanding elusive until now.
The team of researchers led by serologist Nicole Thornton of the UK’s National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) analyzed the blood of 13 patients for suspected antigens. They identified five variations in the Er antigens: the known variants Era, Erb, Er3 and two new ones Er4 and Er5. By sequencing the patients’ genetic codes, the experts were able to pinpoint the gene that codes for cell surface proteins.

It was a gene already familiar to medical science: PIEZO1. The gene is in fact already associated with several known diseases. The crew and team confirmed their results by eliminating PIEZO1 in a cell line of erythroblasts, a precursor to red blood cells, and testing the antigens. PIEZO1 is needed to add Er antigen to the cell surface. This study really highlights the antigenic potential of even very poorly expressed proteins and their relevance for transfusion medicine.

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