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Breaking news - The UK National Blood Service will start using a new genetic test to blood type donors from early December 2006. The test uses a product called 'Bloodchip', which will be sold to blood services worldwide for improving blood transfusion and foetal Rhesus group determination. It was developed by Bloodgen, a consortium made up of many of Europe’s experts on molecular blood grouping, and funded by the European Commission. The group conducted a three year research project into genotyping aimed at improving patient safety & blood transfusion compatibility. Professor Neil Avent at the University of the West of England (UWE, the lead partner of Bloodgen), said:
"I think genotyping is incredibly accurate and it’s much more comprehensive than blood group serology. Certain serological reagents are not available, they can be very expensive; genotyping as a core technology will only go down in price within the next ten years or so... I think genotyping is going to be used for a wide range of routine testing of patients in the near future."
The group's vision for the long term is that "Mass scale genotyping for a variety of genetic diseases will become obligatory for neonates."
Bloodchip tests for nine of the 29 recognised blood group systems, which includes "all clinically relevant blood groups". The relevance has been chosen for blood transfusion, and includes ABO and Rhesus (CDE) blood groups, as well as the Kell, Duffy, Kidd, Diego, MNSs, Dombrock and Colton systems, with a predicted 99.5% accuracy. The test does not yet include the Lewis blood group, clinically relevant for its connection with secretor status and the consequences associated with it (although not yet widely recognised by mainstream medicine).
If the test results are comprehensive enough, the implications of the new genetic test will mean that donors and pregnant mothers may be able to easily find their ABO blood group genotype, for example, an individual of blood group A being A1O, A1A1, A1A2, A2O, etc. which may have further dietary significance than simply being 'A'. When enough people have been genotyped in this way, there are further possibilities for research into disease associations and genetic linkage relating to specific blood groups and blood group genotypes that may not have been sufficiently investigated in the past.
The news of the test's availability was published in the UK newspaper the Daily Mail today. The technology of finding the Rhesus blood group of the unborn child through genotyping was first described in 2004.
1. National Blood Service
2. Neil Avent's Homepage
3. Compatibility - It's all in the Genes! Research-tv. Professor Neil Avent, Director of the Centre for Research in Bio Medicine, Faculty of Applied Science, University of the West of England, Bristol.
4. Avent N.D., Martinez A, Flegel W.A., et. al. (2006) "The Bloodgen Project : Toward Mass Scale Comprehensive Genotyping of Blood Donors." (1 page PDF file). Presented at the ISBT 29th International Congress, Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday 7 september 2006. Pubmed 16903956 (in process)
5. UWE press release 24th May 2006.
6. "New blood test could save thousands of lives" Daily Mail, 11th September 2006.
7. Rijnders RJ, Christiaens GC, Bossers B. "Clinical applications of cell-free fetal DNA from maternal plasma." Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Jan;103(1):157-64. PMID 14704260
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