(RxWiki News) You've probably only heard of a handful of blood types, most simply designated with a letter such as A or O. In fact several other rare blood types exist. Scientists have now identified an additional two types, which could be life-saving for thousands of patients.
Researchers have identified proteins for both the rare Langereis and Junior blood types. Both are more common among smaller ethnic populations, with about 50,000 Japanese believed to carry the Junior negative blood type. European gypsies also are believed to carry both rare blood types.
"Know your blood type in case of emergency."
University of Vermont biologist Bryan Ballif noted that the identification of two molecules as specialized transport proteins named ABCB6 and ABCG2 is key because patients with rare blood types may encounter blood transfusion or organ transplant problems.
The pair of blood types were known previously, but the proteins responsible had not been identified. Very few patients with such rare types even learn which type they carry. The finding brings the total count of proteins responsible for basic blood types from 30 to 32, with the last new type discovered 10 years ago.
During the study researchers used a mass spectrometer, an instrument that measures the masses and relative concentrations of atoms and molecules, to analyze purified proteins. Cellular and genetic tests, including gene sequencing, confirmed the proteins were responsible for the Langereis and Junior blood types.
The finding means that medical professionals can quickly screen for the new blood group proteins, which will ensure safer blood transfusions or tissue donations when they are needed. The proteins are also linked to anticancer drug resistance, and could prompt new cancer treatments.
Ballif and his team are currently following up on additional unknown blood types. He estimated there could to 10 to 15 additional blood type systems that have not yet been identified.
The study was published in the February issue of Nature Genetics.