Scientists identify new set of blood types; what the study found

OCT 07, 2022

A new group of blood types has been discovered. That’s according to a study where scientists — for the first time — describe the different antigens in this group.

This new group has been named the Er blood group. We're most familiar with blood type groups like A, B, O and Rh. But there are many other blood groups besides these.

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Most of the common ones were identified back in the early 20th century, whereas the Er antigen was first discovered in 1982. There were three known variations: Era, Erb and Er3. But they didn’t fit into any known blood group system.

So in this study, scientists used a combination of cutting-edge DNA sequencing and gene-editing techniques to analyze the blood of 13 patients with the suspect antigens. And that’s how they identified a total of five variations in the Er antigens: the three ones I just mentioned plus two new ones called Er4 and Er5. That’s how this new blood group system was established.

People need to know their blood type in case something unfortunate happens like an accident and they need to have a blood transfusion. Serious complications can happen when blood types are incompatible. Blood types are actually determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens.

Antigens are substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body. For example, if a person receives incompatible blood from a donor during a blood transfusion, that person’s immune system may see those antigens as foreign and send out antibodies to flag the suspect-antigen-bearing cells for elimination. And this can be dangerous.

Also in rare cases, blood incompatibility can affect pregnant women. During the study, two women with alloantibodies to the newly discovered antigens miscarried.

Now, if you don’t know your blood type, there are a few ways to find out what it is. You can:

  • Ask your doctor to order a test
  • Donate blood and get the info
  • Take an at-home blood test
  • Take a saliva test if you're scared of needles

Knowing your blood type can also let you know if you are at risk for certain health issues. Research has linked blood type to heart and vascular disease risk, as well as stomach cancer and type 2 diabetes. Again, knowing your blood type can be critical to know in case of an emergency.

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