December 27, 2021

Golden Blood

Sensitive content warning: reference to blood

Terms such as ‘hair color’, ‘eye color’, ‘body type’, or ‘height’, bring about different thoughts and connotations in mind. If we take a careful look, though, we realize that there is common ground between them. They constitute characteristics that exist in different forms and make us special. Among them we can also consider our blood type. More specifically, the topic of this article is the rarest blood type to exist which, due to its rarity–less than fifty people worldwide have it–is also known as ‘golden blood’. But before we get there, let’s see, what is the meaning of blood type and what determines it?

Starting from its base, blood includes these components: 1) red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to the body tissues and remove carbon dioxide, 2) white blood cells, which protect the body against possible infectious diseases, 3) platelets, which are involved in the blood clotting process and 4) blood plasma, the fluid-carrier of enzymes. The determining feature for our blood type–which simultaneously determines the red color of our blood–is… yes, bingo!--red blood cells.

On their surface, besides hemoglobin (the protein responsible for the color of our blood) specialized proteins, called antigens, can be found. They check the substances that want to enter the cell and either allow their entrance or activate defense mechanisms for their destruction. If someone has the antigen A they belong in blood type A, if they have B in blood type B, if they have both in blood type AB and if they have none, they belong in blood type O. Another system used to identify blood type is the Rhesus system. A person is characterized as Rhesus positive if their red blood cells have protein D and if not, they are Rhesus negative. Therefore, after some simple calculations, the possible combinations are eight, meaning that there are eight different blood types.

However, reality proves that this ascertainment is just a simplification of the existing situation. To be specific, on the surface of red blood cells there may be up to 342 different antigens. 61 antigens possibly belong to the Rhesus factor. 160 of them are considered common and most people have them. A blood type is considered rare if it lacks antigens that exist in 99% of the others and even rarer if this percentage reaches 99,5%.

The antigens on which we focus are the Rhesus ones. So, if someone’s blood doesn’t contain any of the 61 antigens of this system, then it belongs to the Rh-null type. Less than 50 people worldwide have this particular blood type. It was discovered in 1961 in an Aboriginal woman in Australia, marking a turning point in the medical field, since till then doctors believed that fetuses with this blood type died in the womb and didn’t survive. This rare case is caused by gene alteration, it is connected to long-term anemia and its possibilities of occurrence increase from abnormal inherited genes or incest. The biggest danger for people with this blood type concerns cases of necessary blood transfusion, since they can only accept blood from people with this blood type. The rarity of this situation causes bureaucratic difficulties and increases the cost of blood transfer across the world to cover the needs of these people.


Translated by Panagiota Katsaveli, Reviewed by Kyriaki Arnaouti

Thanasis Dellis

Hey! I’m Thanasis and I study in the department of Chemistry in AUTh. I listen to music fanatically; I laugh out loud and travel everywhere through my thoughts or a book. I’m thrilled by the vastness and the complexity of the human body and psychology. On this blog I express my thoughts and I invite all of you on this journey!

Panagiota Katsaveli (she/her)

Born and raised in Kilkis, but her imagination has convinced her that she has lived in many countries around the world. Spends most of her free time watching TV shows, while adopting the personality and behavior of her favorite characters. The combination of perfectionism and laziness that characterize her will eventually be her destruction. Chocolate, wine, coffee and pizza is what she is made of.

Kiriaki Arnaouti (she/they)

Born a Drama queen, both literally and figuratively. Her mind is constantly switching back and forth between Greek, English and Spanish but her heart is set on two things only; iced coffee and books. Her Sagittarius nature convinces her that she’s the funniest person alive, but that’s for you to discover!

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