Unique participants to support the development of array typing of blood cell antigens for clinical care

Study code

Lead researcher
Prof. Emanuele Di Angelantonio

Study type
Samples and data

Institution or company
University of Cambridge

Researcher type

Speciality area


Researchers have developed a new test for determining blood groups, with support from NIHR BioResource participants. This test looks at the genetic information, or DNA, for blood groups. Each year millions of blood transfusions provide lifesaving support for patients. However, the current practice of matching blood transfusions does not provide a perfect match and around 1 in 30 patients may form antibodies against blood groups after a single transfusion episode. This can cause reactions or delays when patients need further transfusions, particularly for patients who need repeated regular transfusions. Matching for just a limited number of blood groups in addition to ABO and D reduces antibody formation by 95%. With the DNA-test all blood groups can be typed in parallel. The test also allows us to type other tissue (HLA) and platelet groups, which can help doctors identify the right platelets to give to patients.

Using samples from 8,000 donors, the results from the new test have been compared with those of tests currently used and excellent (99.9%) agreement was observed. Of note, almost halve of the small number of differences were caused by the wrong results for the currently used tests. The new test results in a 10-fold increase in antigen types and is cheap allowing for its wide use.

With data from NHS patients with complex antibody mixture it has been shown that the increased typing information makes it 2.6 times more likely that a donation for safe transfusion can be identified.

To bring this precision medicine test to the bedside regulatory approval is required. For this we seek access to samples and data from NHSBT blood donors and patients who have already or will be joining the NIHR BioResource. If permission is granted then the clinical study to obtain regulatory approval will be completed in 2023, following a well-defined study protocol.

Organisation: This study is organised by Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio, professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge department of Public Health and Primary Care