Landsteiner Identifies Rhesus Factor (Great Events: 1900-2001)
Article abstract: Landsteiner’s discovery of the Rh blood group led to an understanding of a deadly blood disease and a way of preventing it.
Antibodies, Antigens, and the Clumping of Red Blood Cells
The liquid part of blood contains T-shaped molecules called “antibodies.” Antibodies may bind with structures called “antigens” on the surfaces of cells and cause the cells to clump. The clumping of red blood cells (RBCs) occurs when the two “arms” of an antibody bind with different cells. The clumping of RBCs by antibodies can be so extensive that it can be seen in a drop of blood without the aid of a microscope.
Landsteiner and his colleagues suggested in 1901, after their discovery of the A and B antigens of the ABO blood group, that RBC clumping was responsible for the many cases of illness and death that occurred following blood transfusions. In the United States, the routine analysis of donor and recipient blood to avoid the mixing of blood that might clump began in 1915. Even when donor and recipient bloods were matched, however, transfusions were not always trouble-free. Apparently, another blood group besides the ABO blood group could cause problems.
Karl Landsteiner and Alexander Wiener reported in 1940 that human RBCs could have on their surfaces a number of different antigens (R1, R2, R0, and RZ). An antibody called “anti-Rh0” clumped RBCs that had any of these antigens....
(The entire section is 1104 words.)
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