An international team of researchers is developing a new genetic blood test that allows a much closer match between donors and recipients. The Bloodchip gives more details in the result than the existing tests. The current tests look for blood types while the Bloodchip looks for DNA "signatures".
A spokeswoman for the National Blood Service, which is helping develop the test, said, "It could be "a lifesaver" for those needing regular transfusions. It is hoped the test could be of particular benefit to people with blood conditions such as sickle cell anaemia, haemophilia, thalassaemias and leukaemia."
The developers of Biochip warn that patients with these conditions, who require routine blood transfusions, can develop life-threatening side effects on receiving not a properly matched blood.
3,000 healthy blood samples are being tested with Biochip as a "proof of principle". The results reveal its accuracy compared to the current tests. This was done with the intention of getting European health and safety approval.
The existing serological tests identify the blood group; A, B, AB or O and the rhesus antigen, thus Rh positive or negative.
Whereas, the Biochip test identifies nearly 9 other possible differences in the blood, like the Duffy system - blood can be Duffy A or Duffy B.
When differences in each system are considered, the test could detect around 116 blood type DNA "signatures"
Thee DNA extracted from blood samples are tested on glass microscopic slides. Chemicals are added to the DNA on the slide, resulting in reaction that gives out fluorescent colours. A scanner in which the slide is placed determines blood types.
Professor Neil Avent, director of University of West England's Centre for Research in Biomedicine who has been involved in the research, said: "Blood transfusions are inherently safe. But with the compatibility between the donor and the recipient being tested using serological techniques, there is a significant section of the population that suffer serious illness and side effects after receiving multiple transfusions of blood that is not a perfect match."
"These patients over time develop antibodies that reject imperfectly matched blood transfusions, a process known as alloimmunisation, which can lead to serious illness and life-threatening side effects."
"Bloodchip has been developed with these communities in mind."
Professor Marion Scott, national director of research at the UK National Blood Service, said: "The Bloodchip test will literally be a lifesaver for those who suffer from illnesses that require multiple blood transfusions such as haemophilia, sickle cell disease and thalassaemias.
"Sickle cell disease and thalassaemias are particularly prevalent in those from African, Caribbean, Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and Asian backgrounds and both can be life-threatening.
"The Bloodchip test will be of enormous benefit in ensuring those with these disorders receive perfectly matched blood to enable them to better manage their conditions."
A consortium called Bloodgen has been formed by scientists from the UK, Germany, Sweden, Spain, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, to develop the test . Progenika Biopharma in Spain will manufacture the Biochip.