A, AB, O, O positive. Sounds familiar, right? How about Langereis or Junior?
Stumped? That’s because scientists just discovered these two new blood groups, according to research published in Nature Genetics.
Remember that your blood type doesn’t consist of just one protein like type A or B, but 32 blood group systems like Rhesus positive or negative. (That’s what “A positive” or “O negative” mean.)
And now researchers know that everyone has a Junior (JR) or Langereis (LAN) blood type, explains study coauthor Bryan Ballif, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at the University of Vermont. You can be positive or negative for each. For example, your blood type could comprise of A, Rh+ (aka “A positive”), LAN+, and JR+.
Most people are LAN- or JR-positive because they produce two types of proteins that chauffeur nutrients in and out of the cell and defend their red blood cells against foreign invaders. But a small percentage of the population (mostly occurring in Japan) don’t have these proteins and end up with LAN- and JR-negative blood types. (To read about how athletes may be boosting their performance, check out the Science of Blood Doping.)
There are some major perks to these discoveries. First, it will be easier to identify people who have these rarer blood types. More importantly, when being transfused, technicians can be more accurate and insure that they will be giving people the correct blood types, explains lead study author Lionel Arnaud, Ph.D., a research scientist at the National Institute of Blood Transfusion in Paris, France. (Before these proteins were discovered, LAN-negative or JR-negative people could’ve been transfused with LAN-positive or JR-positive blood, which their bodies would’ve rejected.)
The findings don’t only apply to blood transfusions. People who are LAN-negative or JR-negative don’t have the ability to clear certain cancer drugs, and may not be able to handle certain types of chemotherapy as well.
“The discovery of these two new blood types is important for personalized medicine, which is currently in the infancy,” explains Arnaud. “We hope that everybody will be typed for Langereis and Junior in order to improve the prescription of treatments, and therefore, decrease the side effects of these treatments.”