When a person is involved in a serious accident one of the most important requirements is making sure they receive the correct type of blood.

Many people are familiar with the common blood categories such as A, B, AB or O but most may not have heard about the Langereis or Junior types. However, these cells are vital to whether a person lives or dies. The blood has been made up of two new discoveries by a researcher at the University of Vermont. The specialist transport proteins known as ABCB6 and ABCG2 are believed to make up the molecular basis of the blood cells which until now have been a mystery.

Biologist Bryan Ballif believes that not being able to distinguish between the common blood types and these rarer cells could be a “matter of life and death”. As well as being a lesser known variation of blood the substance can also be positive or negative and whilst transfusion problems due to Langereis and Junior are hard to come by a number of ethnicities could be at risk if doctors and those in UK medical jobs are unable to distinguish which type is which.

Mr Ballif said: “More than 50,000 Japanese [people] are thought to be Junior negative and may encounter blood transfusion problems or mother-fetus incompatibility. Only 30 proteins have previously been identified as responsible for a basic blood type.”

Complications after a blood transfusion can prove fatal and a mix-up in different types is a probable threat if a health professional can not determine the correct type. In 2004, Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, announced that she had contracted hepatitis C. A special investigation by the Daily Mail in 2011 found that she caught the disease following a transfusion whilst giving birth to her daughter in 1971.

Mr Ballif added: “Very few people learn if they are Langereis or Junior positive or negative. Transfusion support of individuals with an anti-Lan antibody is highly challenging.”

Written by Megan Smith