You probably know your blood type: A, B, AB or O. You may even know if you’re Rhesus positive or negative. But how about the Langereis blood type? Or the Junior blood type? Positive or negative? Most people have never even heard of these.
Yet this knowledge could be “a matter of life and death,” says University of Vermont biologist Bryan Ballif.
While blood transfusion problems due to Langereis and Junior blood types are rare worldwide, several ethnic populations are at risk, Ballif notes. “More than 50,000 Japanese are thought to be Junior negative and may encounter blood transfusion problems or mother-fetus incompatibility,” he writes.
But the molecular basis of these two blood types has remained a mystery — until now.
In the February issue of Nature Genetics, Ballif and his colleagues report on their discovery of two proteins on red blood cells responsible for these lesser-known blood types.
Ballif identified the two molecules as specialized transport proteins named ABCB6 and ABCG2.
“Only 30 proteins have previously been identified as responsible for a basic blood type,” Ballif notes, “but the count now reaches 32.”