Research collaboration to improve patient access to rare blood types

Research collaboration to improve patient access to rare blood types

Patients of ethnically diverse backgrounds will have better access to rare blood types, thanks to a new UK-based blood and transplant research unit, co-led by Australian Red Cross Lifeblood and The University of Queensland (UQ).

Five new National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Blood and Transplant Research Units (BTRU) will conduct research across blood, organ, plasma, and stem cells.

Co-lead of one theme in the Donor Health and Behaviour Unit, Professor Barbara Masser from UQ’s School of Psychology and Lifeblood Donor Research Chair said there is currently limited evidence required to improve the safety and efficiency of blood donation.

“The research conducted in the UK has potential for global benefit to ultimately save more lives,” Professor Masser said.

“As we’re addressing common challenges faced by blood collection agencies across the world, the research will enable us to assess whether similar trials are relevant in Australia or any other country.

“One of the areas we will be focussing on is investigating new ways to encourage a more ethnically diverse range of people to donate blood.

“For example, aligning the blood donor base to better match demand for transfusions, particularly for diseases affecting ethnic minorities, such as sickle cell disease.

“Other key areas will be developing new methods for recruiting and retaining donors, promoting safe and effective donation practices, and identifying risks of adverse health effects of blood donation.

“There is the potential for large-scale collaborative research projects focused on these common challenges between the BTRU and Lifeblood, and a stronger alliance between BTRU, UQ and Lifeblood more generally in research and development,” Prof. Masser said.

Donated blood is a crucial resource for healthcare systems, enabling blood transfusions that save millions of lives every year around the world.

The blood units are a collaboration with the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Nottingham, funded by the NIHR and NHS Blood and Transplant.

Lifeblood Director of Research Professor David Irving said Professor Masser brings exceptional international standing in donor research including on barriers and motivators within culturally diverse communities to the role.

“As patient populations in the UK and Australia have become more diverse, there is a greater need for blood types that are rare in Caucasian populations, which make up the majority of blood donors in both nations,” Professor Irving said.

“Providing the right blood and blood products for an ethnically diverse population presents an evolving challenge for blood collection agencies around the world.

“Lifeblood is pleased to work with world-leading universities on this research to help ensure that what we collect from our donors reflects the distribution of blood groups required by patients who need transfusion,” he added.