25 July 2023

Blood donors in England are being invited to give a sample to the UK’s largest health research programme to enable the NHS to better match lifesaving transplants and transfusions.

The blood samples will be sent to Our Future Health, a collaboration between the public sector, life sciences companies and UK health charities including NHS organisations. Our Future Health aims transform the prevention, detection and treatment of conditions such as dementia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Our Future Health will carry out detailed tests on the blood for its research programme, which will include extensive typing of blood, platelets and tissue.

Afterwards, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) will then have future access to the blood, platelet and tissue typing genetic data – though not other data. This will allow for better matching of blood transfusions and stem cell and organ transplants.

The first samples were taken last week, when around 200 people donated an additional small amount of blood at sessions run by four mobile blood donation teams in Kent, Bristol, Leeds and Wiltshire.

NHSBT aims to roll out sampling to all 24 donor centres and 48 mobile teams by the end of 2023, with the ambition of recruiting to 450,000 blood donors into the programme over the next five years.

Finding matches can be a particular problem for people of black Afro-Caribbean and Asian heritage. About 17% of people with sickle cell disease develop antibodies because blood transfusions cannot be completely matched. What’s more, Asian people wait five months longer for a kidney transplant, due to the shortage of matching donors.

White people have an up to 90% chance of finding a stem cell match on the NHS British Bone Marrow Registry, but for people from black, Asian and mixed ethnic backgrounds, they have a 40% chance or less.

The data provided to NHSBT by Our Future Health will help provide better matched products. NHSBT anticipate particular benefit in the future for kidney transplant patients, by providing blood for transfusions that do not raise antibodies to their transplanted kidney. The antibodies make it harder to find matching blood for the future and increase the risk of the organ being rejected.

Dr Raghib Ali, chief executive and chief medical officer at Our Future Health, said: “We’re proud to be working with NHS Blood and Transplant to provide even more ways for people across the UK to join Our Future Health in a way that is convenient for them, particularly for those who have never taken part in something like this before.

“We are looking forward to welcoming many blood donors as volunteers in the coming months, so they can find out new information about their own health, and help future generations live healthier lives for longer.”

Our Future Health is seeking to recruit up to five million volunteers from across the UK through various recruitment channels to create one of the most detailed pictures ever of people’s health. With this information, researchers will be able to develop new ways to prevent, detect, and treat diseases.

Andrea Harmer, NHS Blood and Transplant Genomics Programme Director, said: “We’ll be giving blood donors the option of taking part in Our Future Health by taking an extra blood sample during their donation.

“Their donation will not only save lives as normal but will support work to prevent and treat serious health conditions especially by finding them at an early stage. By working together, we can simply and efficiently help build this research programme as people give blood.

“NHS Blood and Transplant will also then have future access to donor’s genotyping data, which will allow us better match blood, organs, and stem cells for life saving treatments.”

Source: NHS Blood and Transplant


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