British researchers from Cambridge University have succeeded in modifying, for the first time, the blood group of three kidneys of deceased patients, making them all group 0, the universal one. A real revolution for patients with renal insufficiency, which could considerably increase the number of kidney transplants, often not possible precisely because of the incompatibility between the donor and the recipient. A person with blood type A, in fact, cannot be transplanted with the kidney of a person with blood type B and vice versa.
“Because if you have antigens and markers on your cells that can be A or B, your body naturally produces antibodies against the ones you don’t have,” explains Mike Nicholson, professor of transplant surgery at the British university. To achieve this – which will soon be published in the ‘British journal of surgery’ – the researchers used a normothermic infusion machine, a device that connects to the human kidney to pass oxygenated blood through the organ, to better preserve it. in the future. “Our confidence in the experiment’s success grew after we applied an enzyme to human kidney tissue and saw very quickly that the antigens had been cleared,” explains Serena MacMillan, PhD student in the Nicholson-led study group. “At that point we knew this procedure was feasible and we only needed to apply the enzyme to normal-sized human kidneys,” she added.
The enzyme therefore acted like ‘cellular scissors’ to eliminate the blood group markers (A and B) that line the blood vessels of the kidney and automatically returned the organ to blood group O, the universal group. This conversion technique, in addition to increasing the supply of available kidneys, could also offer patients belonging to ethnic minorities greater chances of receiving a transplant. These patients often wait a year longer than others to receive a new organ, because they are more likely to have group B and because donation rates are very low among these populations.