New Era For Blood Transfusions Through Genome Sequencing


Source: Brigham and Woman’s Hospital

Summary: Researchers are developing a computer program that can comprehensively and cost-effectively determine differences in individuals’ blood types with more than 99 percent accuracy.


Blood transfusions are one of the most common procedures in medicine with more than 11 million units of blood transfused in the U.S. each year. Complications from blood transfusions can be life-threatening. When the body encounters foreign antigens on the donor cells, it can stimulate the production of antibodies that can destroy the transfused donor cells. From birth, people have antibodies unique to their ABO blood type, but other antibodies against specific blood antigens can be stimulated during pregnancy from exposure to fetal cells or exposure to donor cells when receiving multiple blood transfusions. In a new study, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, as well as from the New York Blood Center have leveraged the MedSeq Project – the first randomized trial of whole-genome sequencing in healthy adults to develop and validate a computer program that can comprehensively and cost-effectively determine differences in individuals’ blood types with more than 99% accuracy. The study findings were published in the journal The Lancet Haematology.

Blood group types

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The team has built a database and developed a computer software algorithm, known as bloodTyper, that could rapidly and accurately predict an individual’s blood group antigen profile from genomic sequences. They validated the software by comparing it to traditional, and more labor-intensive, methods. bloodTyper was more than 99 % accurate when typing from the MedSeq Project participants’ genomes.

Prof. Robert Green said, “This report demonstrates a previously unanticipated use case and benefit that will accrue as whole genome sequencing become a routine part of medical care”, “Genome sequencing can now identify potential transfusion recipients who need rare blood types and the individuals who can safely provide them.”


More Information: William J Lane et al, “Automated typing of red blood cell and platelet antigens: a whole-genome sequencing study”, The Lancet Haematology (2018). DOI: 10.1016/S2352-3026(18)30053-X


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