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Red Cell Reference


The Red Cell Reference Department deals exclusively in complex and difficult red cell antigen/antibody problems.

These problems take the form of:

  • Antibody identification when the referring laboratory has been unable to elucidate a serological incompatibility. These are usually from patients whose sera react with all red cells and for whom a compatible donor is difficult or impossible to find. The reactions may be due to a complex mixture of antibodies or to the presence of an antibody to a high incidence antigen produced by a patient with a rare red cell phenotype. Sometimes both occur in the same patient.
  • Antibody confirmation when the referring laboratory needs verification of an antibody specificity which is suspected but not proven. Cells with rare types are needed to exclude the presence of underlying antibodies to ‘routine’ blood groups.
  • Elucidation of rare or novel blood group antigens on the red cells of patients or donors. When confirmed, donors may be registered for the National or International Rare Donor Panels or provide rare cells for exchange schemes.

Identification of low incidence antigens responsible for haemolytic disease of the newborn or crossmatch incompatibility.

Clinical Usefulness

Antibody identification may suggest potential clinical significance or act as a guide to the likely availability of compatible donors at a local level or via the National or International Rare Donor Panels.


Techniques used as an adjunct to serology in difficult cases include MAIEA, flow cytometry, molecular biology and immunoblotting.

Referring Investigations

Red cell serology services are provided to UK Blood Centres and to bona fide reference centres outside the UK. Centres wishing to refer for the first time must contact IBGRL to discuss the appropriateness of the proposed investigation.

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