What's the buzz

What's the buzz

‘Universal blood’ to make blood donation easy

Scientists have taken an ‘important step’ toward the development of a universal blood product that would eliminate the need to ‘type’ blood to match donor and recipient before transfusions.

‘Immunocamouflage’ technique hides blood cells from antibodies that could trigger a potentially fatal immune reaction that occurs when blood types do not match.

Maryam Tabrizian and colleagues note that blood transfusions require a correct match between a donor and the recipient’s blood. This can be a tricky proposition given that there are 29 different red blood cells types, including the familiar ABO and Rh types. The wrong blood type can provoke serious immune reactions that result in organ failure or death, so scientists have long sought a way to create an all-purpose red blood cell for transfusions that doesn’t rely on costly blood typing or donations of a specific blood type.

To develop this ‘universal’ red blood cell, the scientists discovered a way to encase living, individual red blood cells within a multilayered polymer shell. The shell serves as a cloaking device, they found, making the cell invisible to a person’s immune system and able to evade detection and rejection. Oxygen can still penetrate the polymer shell, however, so the red blood cells can carry on their main business of supplying oxygen to the body.

Eating fish cuts women’s eyesight loss risk in old age

Women who regularly consume fish and omega-3 fatty acids have a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston collected data on 38,022 women, who had not been diagnosed with AMD.

Information on their eating habits, including their intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, was collected and their eye health tracked over 10 years.

The researchers found that women who consumed the most omega-3 fatty acids had a 38 per cent lower risk of developing AMD compared with those who ate the least.

Consuming one or more servings of fish a week was linked to a 42 per cent lower risk of sight loss compared with eating one serving a month. It also showed that consumption of one or more servings of fish per week was linked to a 42 per cent lower risk of AMD when compared to less than one serving per month.

“This lower risk appeared to be due primarily to consumption of canned tuna fish and dark-meat fish,” said lead author William G Christen. “These prospective data from a large population of women with no prior diagnosis of AMD indicate that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and fish significantly reduced the risk of incident AMD,” concluded the authors.