One man was able to save the lives of more than 2 million babies in Australia, and no he was not called Superman, though he should probably be. By donating his “special” blood that doctors were able to use to make a special medication, this man was able to save millions of babies from life-threatening problems.
How can someone have a special blood that makes a medication?
James Harrison has been donating blood for 60 years and made his last donation on the 11th May. He is nicknamed the man with the golden arm and has donated blood more than one thousand times according to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. This is because Harrison’s blood contains a very rare antibody called anti-D immunoglobulin which is a medication that helps mothers who are at risk of developing a disease that causes incompatibility with their fetus. As a result, it has been estimated that Harrison has helped the lives of over two million babies.
The disease causes the mother’s immune system to destroy the fetus’s red blood cells, this can lead to severe complications which include brain damage, jaundice or even a stillbirth.
Exactly how Harrison’s antibody helps stop complications is a mystery, but researchers believe it covers the surface of the fetus and therefore prevents the mother’s immune system from seeing them. Like a camouflage system or cloak around the fetus.
It is very uncommon to have this type of antibody in their blood that is used to make the medication needed, in Australia, there is only a pool of about 200 blood donors. Doctors believe Harrison’s body started to create the antibody when he received a large transfusion at a young age. Harrison has now reached the maximum age to give blood at 72 years old, so needs to stop donating blood in order to protect his health.