If you have ever donated blood, you will know that it is an act of love between two people, often strangers, where one helps the other to save his life in an operation, to recover from an intervention, etc. It is an action of complete altruism, where, without realizing it, we are helping many people to improve their quality of life.
Thus, all over the world there are stories worth knowing. This is the case of an Australian man who has helped save the lives of more than two million babies, by donating his ‘special’ blood, which was used to make a medicine that can prevent life-threatening problems in newborns.
But what is the reason why your blood is special and how does this medicine work?
According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, 81-year-old James Harrison has been donating blood for 60 years and made his last donation on May 11 this year. He was nicknamed ‘the man with the golden arm’, he donated blood more than eleven hundred times and it is estimated that his donations helped save the lives of 2.4 million babies in total.
The reason your blood is so highly valued is that it contains a very rare antibody that is used to create a drug called anti-D immunoglobulin, also known as Rh immunoglobulin. This medication is given to mothers who are at risk of developing Rh incompatibility with their fetus, which means that the mother’s immune system attacks and destroys the fetus’s red blood cells.
According to Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director of the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, when this situation occurs, many babies have their red blood cells destroyed while in the womb, which leads to serious complications for the newborn. , such as brain damage, jaundice, and even death.
However, treatment with Rh immunoglobulin, which is made from the blood plasma of ‘special’ blood donors, can prevent such complications. As Dr. Aftab told Live Science, ‘The discovery of this antibody is one of the greatest life-saving discoveries of the last century.’ As we all know, there are two types of blood: positive and negative. This refers to a protein called the Rh factor, which is found on the surface of each red blood cell; When people have this protein, they are called Rh positive, while if they don’t, they are called Rh negative. This does not affect anything decisive for most people, but for pregnant women it is a risk when the mother is Rh negative and the fetus is Rh positive, or vice versa. This is because,
In a developing world, such Rh incompatibility is one of the leading causes of illness and death in newborns. According to Medscape, In the United States, about 15 percent of the population is Rh negative. So, to avoid Rh incompatibility problems, doctors first test a woman’s blood early in her pregnancy or, preferably, before she becomes pregnant. If the woman is Rh negative, she is likely to receive Rh immune globulin.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that Rh-negative women receive this medication when they are 28 weeks pregnant and also within the first 72 hours after giving birth to an Rh-positive baby. . A dose of Rh immune globulin may also be needed after invasive procedures, such as amniocentesis, or after a first-trimester miscarriage.
Exactly how Rh immune globulin works to prevent complications of Rh incompatibility is still unclear, but researchers believe the antibody coats the surface of the fetus’s Rh-positive blood cells in the mother’s bloodstream and prevents the immune system from of the mother ‘sees’ them. It is not common for people to have the type of antibody in their blood that is used to make Rh immunoglobulin. In fact, in Australia, the country’s Rh immune globulin comes from a pool of just 200 blood donors, according to the Australian Red Cross. In Australia, about 17 percent of pregnant women receive the treatment, including Harrison’s own daughter, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Harrison probably developed the antibody when he received a large blood transfusion at age 14. After that transfusion, his immune system ramped up a high concentration of antibodies against Rh-positive blood cells. Harrison needed to stop donating blood because he had already passed the age limit for blood donors in Australia, and the Australian Red Cross said he should stop donating to protect his health.