The Conversation – 7th March 2017
By Erica Wood and Lucy Fox
If you’ve ever needed a blood transfusion, or donated blood, you probably would have been asked your blood type. While it was once thought all blood was the same, we now know there are different types of blood, called blood groups. Transfusions between blood groups can be catastrophic, even deadly, so knowing the blood type of donors and recipients is of the utmost importance.
Our bodies contain trillions of red blood cells. Each is covered in an array of proteins and sugars, inherited from our parents, which determine our blood group. We can all be classified into group A, B, AB or O, based on which sugars coat our red blood cells.
We’re also classified as positive or negative, based on whether our blood cells carry a protein called the Rhesus D (RhD) antigen. These two blood group systems (ABO and Rh) give us the eight main blood types: O-, O+, B-, B+, A-, A+, AB-, AB+.