Now anyone can be a universal donor

A new enzymatic method for removing sugar molecules from red blood cells, effectively converting them from A/B/AB to O, is grabbing the media attention this week. See BBC News story, ScienceNow article and article abstract in Nature Biotechnology.

The (non-open access) paper is a good read. The researchers initially performed a screen of 2 500 bacterial and fungal isolates to identify candidate enzymes. Armed with the sequence of one working enzyme they turned to database searches, cloned the hits and identified a second activity. In addition to the applied findings, there’s some nice basic science involving structural biology and enzyme evolution. It’s not stated explicitly in the article but you know, this is why we sequence genomes. It’s exciting to think about the potential for new enzymes in those thousands of available genome sequences and just as important, efficient ways to mine the data to find them.