Professor of Glycomics on top 10 list of scientific breakthroughs for 2007
Professor Henrik Clausen from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine appears in 4th place on Wired's list of the top ten scientific discoveries for 2007. He was nominated for his discovery of how to convert blood type A, B and AB into type O - the blood type that anyone can tolerate during a blood transfusion.
During the Autumn of 2007, the American National Institute of Health faced a critical shortage of blood type O. Thanks to Professor Clausen's research, this problem can now be avoided and, as all patients can tolerate blood type O, the technology can be used in both blood transfusions and the treatment of cancer, leukaemia, as well as different blood disorders, such as anaemia and sickle cell disease.
The difference between the four blood types is their sugar content. Blood type A contains one type of sugar on the surface of the red blood cells, blood type B another, while type AB contains both types of sugar. The problem facing patients with blood disorder diseases and those awaiting transfusions is that if a patient with, for example, blood type A, has antibodies for the sugar on blood type B's blood cells (or the reverse), receiving the wrong type of blood will result in an agressive immune system reaction, with potentially fatal consequences for the patient. But type O has no sugar on the surface of the blood cells and that's why all patients can tolerate a blood type O transfusion. Professor Clausen and his colleagues have discovered an enzyme, that can remove the sugar from the A, B and AB blood cells and thereby convert them to type O.