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Blood Adv. 2017 Jun 27;1(15):1132-1141. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2017004820.

Ethnicity, sex, and age are determinants of red blood cell storage and stress hemolysis: results of the REDS-III RBC-Omics study.

Author information

Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, Blood, and Vascular Medicine Institute.
Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.
Blood Systems Research Institute, San Francisco, CA.
Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA.
RTI International, Atlanta, GA.
RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC.
RTI International, Rockville, MD.
Blood Research Institute, Blood Center of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI.
Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI.
American Red Cross, Farmington, CT.
Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.
The Institute for Transfusion Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA.
University of British Columbia, Victoria, BC, Canada.


Genetic polymorphisms in blood donors may contribute to donor-specific differences in the survival of red blood cells (RBCs) during cold storage and after transfusion. Genetic variability is anticipated to be high in donors with racial admixture from malaria endemic regions such as Africa and Asia. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that donor genetic background, reflected by sex and self-reported ethnicity, significantly modulates RBC phenotypes in storage. High throughput hemolysis assays were developed and used to evaluate stored RBC samples from 11 115 African American, Asian, white, and Hispanic blood donors from 4 geographically diverse regions in the United States. Leukocyte-reduced RBC concentrate-derived samples were stored for 39 to 42 days (1-6°C) and then evaluated for storage, osmotic, and oxidative hemolysis. Male sex was strongly associated with increased susceptibility to all 3 hemolysis measures (P < .0001). African American background was associated with resistance to osmotic hemolysis compared with other racial groups (adjusted P < .0001). Donor race/ethnicity was also associated with extreme (>1%) levels of storage hemolysis exceeding US Food and Drug Administration regulations for transfusion (hemolysis >1% was observed in 3.51% of Asian and 2.47% of African American donors vs 1.67% of white donors). These findings highlight the impact of donor genetic traits on measures of RBC hemolysis during routine cold storage, and they support current plans for genome-wide association studies, which may help identify hereditable variants with substantive effects on RBC storage stability and possibly posttransfusion outcomes.

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