A+ and B- might look like grades you got in high school, but they’re also blood types. There are eight different blood types, and when it comes to donating blood for research, each blood type is equally important.
Blood types are labeled using the ABO system. This system refers to a marker, also known as an antigen, on the surface of your red blood cells. If you have Type A blood, your red blood cells have the A antigen. If you have Type B blood, your cells have the B antigen. If you have Type AB blood, your cells have both the A and B antigens. And if you have Type O blood, your red blood cells don’t have either the A or B antigen.
Some people have blood cells with another type of antigen, called the Rh factor. They are Rh-positive and people who don’t have this antigen are Rh-negative.
Your complete blood type combines information about both antigens, giving you eight possibilities:
People with AB-positive blood are sometimes known as “universal recipients.” That’s because—since their blood has the A, B, and Rh antigens—they can receive blood transfusions from people with any of the eight blood types. On the other side of the spectrum are people with O-negative blood, who are called “universal donors.” Their blood, without the A, B, or Rh antigens, can be given to anyone as a transfusion. So, when blood banks collect for transfusions, they sometimes specifically ask for blood donations from people who have O-negative blood.
At BSC, we collect blood for research. And unlike with transfusions, scientists need a steady supply of all eight blood types. (Click here to see which blood types we are currently looking for.)
Researchers need some blood types more than others. Specifically, there is often a high demand for Type AB blood (both positive and negative) from men. Since this blood has both A and B antigens, it doesn’t react with other blood types, which is helpful for scientists. And using one gender reduces variations in the blood collected. Male donors are preferred because they typically have lower levels of hormones in their blood.
Unfortunately, only about 5% of the U.S. population has AB-positive or AB-negative blood. So, if you’re a male with Type AB blood, please make an appointment to donate blood today!
What if you’re not sure what your blood type is? You could ask your doctor the next time they take a sample. You can check with your family—maybe one of your parents remembers your blood type! Or you could schedule a blood donation at BSC! You will be compensated for your blood donation, and we will also tell you your blood type.
Knowing your blood type is important for a variety of reasons. First, it will come in handy if you ever need a blood transfusion. Secondly, people with different blood types are more likely to have certain health concerns. For example, if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it’s important to know if you are Rh positive or negative. If an expectant mother is Rh-negative and her baby is Rh-positive, she may need some shots to protect herself and her child.
No matter your blood type, scientists need your blood to help develop treatments and cures for deadly diseases.