The CDTRP is pleased to announce a successful grant application to the Fall 2019 Collaborative Health Research Projects (NSERC partnered) grant competition. This project is a collaboration between the team of Drs Stephen Withers (UBC chemist), Jay Kizhakkedathu (UBC Centre for Blood Research), Dana Devine (Canadian Blood services and UBC), Peter Rahfeld (UBC chemistry), Marcelo Cypel (University Health Network, Toronto transplant surgeon) Aizhou Wang (UHN Toronto), Lori West (Univ of Alberta, transplant surgeon) and the CDTRP.

A short explanation of the project can be found below:

Improved organ transplant across the ABO barrier through enzymatic removal of antigens”.

Waitlists for organ transplants are often extremely lengthy due to the need to identify available donor organs that are a good “match” to the patient requiring the transplant. This process of “matching” involves identifying organs that have similar external “markers” known as antigens, to those on the patients own tissues. Amongst the antigens that have to be matched are those that distinguish A, B and O type blood from each other. The relevant antigens on red blood cells are in fact very simple sugar molecules. A,B and O red blood cells all share a common substructure of sugars, but A and B red blood cells differ in each having one extra sugar attached. The applicants have recently developed a way of removing that additional sugar with enzymes so that they can convert A or B red blood cells to O type red blood cells. They are currently testing the safety of the Universal” O type blood so developed. In this proposal the ability of these same enzymes to remove these antigens from the surface of donated human organs will be tested and the safety and use of the modified organs will be thoroughly tested. If successful this would allow the organs from A and B blood type individuals to be converted into O type organs. This would improve the odds of transplant patients obtaining matching organs, which would increase survival patient rates.

When asked how the CDTRP has contributed to the success of this work,

“A key element of the project is the coordination provided by CDTRP. CDTRP played a key role in assembling the KT and training components of the proposal and will be central to progress in those areas as we move forward”  says Dr. Withers.

The CDTRP sends congratulations to this collaborative research team, and looks forward to contributing to the success of this novel and relevant project.

Photo: Dr Peter Rahfeld and Dr Lyann Sim, HQP in the lab Dr. Stephen Withers