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sector_ico_Health_trans Human Health

Breaking the blood group barrier for kidney transplantations

  • Project Leaders: Peter Rahfeld, Caigan Du, Christopher Nguan, Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu, Stephen Withers
  • Institutions: Avivo
  • Budget: $246500
  • Program/Competition: Pilot Innovation Fund
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2021
  • Status: Active

Organ transplantation is a life-saving therapy, but is complicated by the need for a careful blood match between the donor of the organ and the recipient to avoid rejection of the transplant. Unfortunately, this means that patients can typically wait a long time before a suitable match is found. Approximately 4500 Canadians, including 750 British Columbians, are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant at any time, but less than a quarter of them will receive a kidney transplant each year and sadly many never will.  Identifying a suitable match requires both the donor and recipient to have certain matching biological features, including blood type. Type O blood is known as the “universal donor blood” and can be transplanted to patients of any blood type (A, B, AB, O).

The research team at ABOzymes have recently discovered enzymes that can convert Type A blood to Type O. This opens up the possibility of greatly improving the supply of “universal” O type organs, which will create more matching opportunities for kidney transplants, as well improve the equity of donor kidney allocation to patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). The equity of kidney transplantation is an important issue as the Type 0 and Type B blood types are more common in marginalized communities.

The aim of this project is to evaluate their technology in a swine model for kidney transplantation, in preparation for future clinical trial work. Successfully brining this technology to market will substantially increase the number of kidney transplants that can be performed and improve the equity of donor kidney allocation. The ultimate outcome is improving the quality of life for people with ESRD, as well as the cost savings to the healthcare system associated with removing patients from dialysis.