Coffee bean enzyme changes blood types

Dec. 31, 1981

CHICAGO -- An enzyme from green coffee beans has been successful in changing type B red blood cells to the more common type O and may be the key to alieviating blood bank shortages, it was reported Thursday.

Results of the New York Blood Center's four-year research were published in the current edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jack Goldstein, Ph.D., head of the center's cell biochemistry laboratory, said the green coffee bean enzyme -- alpha galactosidase - removed a sugar molecule from the surface of the type B cells and turned them into type O cells.

After animal studies were successful, he said, three human volunteers representing blood types A, B and O each were injected with the converted O type blood cells.

'Ninety-five percent of the labeled cells were still in circulation after 24 hours and 50 percent of the cells survived after a month -- about average for a transfusion,' Goldstein reported.

'It was a matter of developing the proper conditions for removal of the antigen from the red cell.'

The enzyme may solve the perennial blood bank problem of not having enough of the right type of blood by changing the type on hand to the type that is needed, he said.

The enzyme had been tried in similar studies in the 1950s, Goldstein said, but the B cells had been damaged and their metabolism impaired.

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