Tag Archives: blood

A scarce Sarah: new blood group making transfusions safer

Further research into a rare blood type first recorded in Australia 20 years ago will continue to make transfusions and pregnancies safer for others.

“Now families with the SARA blood type can be tested for the gene and this will help safely manage future pregnancies,” says Associate Professor Catherine Hyland of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

“This genetic testing has implications for others, particularly since similar problems can occur during transfusion or pregnancy for people with similar rare blood types.”

Blood types are more complex than simply combinations of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ with A, B, O, or Rh—there are hundreds of different antigens (proteins and sugars on the surface of our cells) across the 36-plus blood groups.

In the 1990s, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service realised the antigens on a special donor named Sarah’s red blood cells weren’t like any previously recorded. But it wasn’t until 2010 that the unusual antigen was investigated again: the Canadian Blood Service reported that a pregnant woman’s immune system had begun attacking her foetus, which they suspected had inherited the same rare blood type recorded in Australia. Continue reading A scarce Sarah: new blood group making transfusions safer

Keeping in shape: what happens to red blood cells in storage?

Understanding why red blood cells get out of shape during storage could help improve the effectiveness and safety of blood transfusions.

So, Marie-Anne Balanant and Sarah Barns are combining biological and engineering expertise, to create a model of how different parts of ageing red blood cell membranes react when a force is applied.

They hope to propose strategies to improve blood storage practices and create better transfusion outcomes for patients. 

Continue reading Keeping in shape: what happens to red blood cells in storage?

Making blood on demand

‘Buddy’ cells that trigger blood stem cells to fully-develop have been discovered by a team of Australian scientists. The finding, in zebrafish, may hold the key to creating blood on demand in the lab.

Everyday medical procedures can require litres of donated blood; and blood stem cells – which can turn into any one of the different types of blood cell – are often used in treatments for leukaemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers.

Continue reading Making blood on demand

Filtering the blood to keep cancer in check

A new diagnostic system used to detect cancer cells in small blood samples could next be turned towards filtering a patient’s entire system to remove those dangerous cells – like a dialysis machine for cancer – says an Australian researcher who helped develop the system.

The technique was developed for cancer diagnosis, and is capable of detecting (and removing) a tiny handful of cancer-spreading cells from amongst the billions of healthy cells in a small blood sample.

The revolutionary system, which works to diagnose cancer at a tenth of the cost of competing technologies, is now in clinical trials in the US, UK, Singapore and Australia, and is in the process of being commercialised by Clearbridge BioMedics PteLtd in Singapore.

Continue reading Filtering the blood to keep cancer in check

Clues to switching off your blood clots

Our blood has a built-in system for breaking up heart attack-inducing clots—and we’re a step closer to drugs that could switch that system on at will.

The molecular structure of plasminogen Credit: Prof James Whisstock/Australian Synchrotron
The molecular structure of plasminogen. Credit: Prof James Whisstock/Australian Synchrotron

Australian researchers have won the decades-long race to define the structure of plasminogen—a protein whose active form quickly dissolves blood clots.

The current crop of clot-busting drugs have many side effects, including bleeding and thinning of the blood, so harnessing the body’s own mechanism for clearing clots could offer a better way. Continue reading Clues to switching off your blood clots

Health check for live cells

Unhealthy cells are less “squishy” than their healthy counterparts. That difference is used by a small device developed by engineers at Monash University to test living blood cells for diseases, such as malaria and diabetes. The device can then sort the cells for future culturing and experimentation without harming them.

A simulation of a red blood cell being trapped and strained for measurement in the Monash device. Credit: Yann Henon, Andreas Fouras & Greg Sheard
A simulation of a red blood cell being trapped and strained for measurement in the Monash device. Credit: Yann Henon, Andreas Fouras & Greg Sheard

The patented “lab-on-a-chip” and accompanying control system has attracted considerable interest from pharmaceutical companies, according to co-inventor Dr Greg Sheard of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Continue reading Health check for live cells

The life and death of blood cells

Dr Benjamin Kile of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research in Melbourne has found why the blood cells responsible for clotting—platelets—have a short shelf life at the blood bank.

The life and death of blood cells
Benjamin Kile, winner of the 2010 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Credit: Bearcage Productions
There’s a molecular clock ticking away inside them that triggers their death. He’s also discovered a gene critical for the production of blood stem cells in our bone marrow that happens to be responsible for a range of cancers.

These major discoveries earned Ben the 2010 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Now he is trying to use them to extend the life of blood bank products, and get to the heart of some of the big questions in cancer.
Continue reading The life and death of blood cells