SAN BERNARDINO - A campaign to boost access to rare blood types has dramatically boosted resources available to area residents, LifeStream officials said Monday.

The regional blood bank, which serves more than 80 hospitals in San Bernardino, Riverside and parts of Los Angeles counties, has access to some 1,000 rare blood types.

"Most people are pretty easy to transfuse. But for those who chronically receive transfusions, there can be problems. And 1,000 is a good database to find a match that will work for them," said Dr. Diane Eklund, vice president of medical affairs for LifeStream.

LifeStream's "library" of blood has grown by about 800 as a result of grants from the Palm Springs-based Desert Healthcare District and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians totaling $175,000, Eklund said.

These rare blood types are most often needed by people who have had multiple transfusions, Eklund said. Oftentimes, after a series of transfusions, the body's natural defense network builds antibodies - cells which treat the transfused red blood cells as an "enemy" which they attack.

The resulting bloodstream "combat" can result in serious illness or even death for the patient, Eklund said.

This type of immune system reaction is seen, for example, in African-Americans, who receive multiple transfusions from Caucasian blood donors, often because of sickle cell anemia.

Having a larger selection of blood from African Americans is a good way to get around this type of immune system reaction. The effort also focused on cataloguing blood from Native Americans, Eklund said.

The process of identifying the unique "fingerprints" of a person's blood cells is both expensive and time-consuming.

The grants allowed scientists to go way beyond classifying blood into various types, such as O negative, and AB positive.

It withdraws DNA from a patient's white cells and precisely analyzes its composition.

While blood from these rare blood cell donors may have long ago been discarded, as red cells can only be kept for 42 days, LifeStream has contact information to ask those donors to come in should their blood be needed.

At the hospital, a patient with a long history of transfusions oftentimes will have their own blood mixed with different blood samples from their hospitals' blood supply inventory.

If "clumping" develops when the two samples mix, then there can be no transfusion, as that is what would happen in the body on a larger scale.

When a hospital exhausts its blood inventory with no match, it will likely send the patient's blood sample to LifeStream to find a match that will work.

"We will work on it until we find some blood that does match," Eklund said.

LifeStream has donor locations in San Bernardino, Ontario, Victorville, Riverside and La Quinta.


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