Modifying the red cell surface: towards an ABO-universal blood supply

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Eliminating the risk for ABO-incompatible transfusion errors and simplifying logistics by creating a universal blood inventory is a challenging idea. Goldstein and co-workers pioneered the field of enzymatic conversion of blood group A and B red blood cells (RBCs) to O (ECO). Using alpha-galactosidase from coffee beans to produce B-ECO RBCs, proof of principle for this revolutionary concept was achieved in clinical trials. However, because this enzyme has poor kinetic properties and low pH optimum the process was not economically viable. Conversion of group A RBCs was only achieved with the weak A(2) subgroup with related enzymes having acidic pH optima. More recently, the identification of entirely new families of bacterial exoglycosidases with remarkably improved kinetic properties for cleaving A and B antigens has reinvigorated the field. Enzymatic conversion of groups A, B and AB RBCs with these novel enzymes resulting in ECO RBCs typing as O can now be achieved with low enzyme protein consumption, short incubation times and at neutral pH. Presently, clinical trials evaluating safety and efficacy of ECO RBCs are ongoing. Here, we review the status of the ECO technology, its impact and potential for introduction into clinical component preparation laboratories.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Hematology


  • glycosidase, ABO blood group, transfusion, carbohydrate antigens, red cell
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-12
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch