Golden blood sounds like the latest in medical quackery. Don’t let the New-Agey moniker throw you. Golden blood is actually the nickname for Rh-null, the world’s rarest blood type.
The golden blood group seems to be a result of genetic mutation (spontaneous change in the gene). It is commonly seen with mutations in the RHAG gene, which codes the Rh-associated glycoprotein. This protein is required for directing the Rh antigens to the RBC membrane.
RHAG mutation is often associated with a disease called hereditary stomatocytosis. These individuals can have long-term, mild, hemolytic anemia and increased RBC breakdown. The Rh-null phenotype can also be seen in the case of certain anemias a person may be born with.
It took us a while to grasp the intricacies of blood, but today, we know that this life-sustaining substance consists of:
- Red blood cells — cells that carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide throughout the body;
- White blood cells — immune cells that protect the body against infection and foreign agents;
- Platelets — cells that help blood clot; and
- Plasma — a liquid that carries salts and enzymes.6,7
Each component has a part to play in blood’s function, but the red blood cells are responsible for our differing blood types. These cells have proteins* covering their surface called antigens, and the presence or absence of particular antigens determines blood type — type A blood has only A antigens, type B only B, type AB both, and type O neither. Red blood cells sport another antigen called the RhD protein. When it is present, a blood type is said to be positive; when it is absent, it is said to be negative. The typical combinations of A, B, and RhD antigens give us the eight common blood types (A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, and O-).
Blood antigen proteins play a variety of cellular roles, but recognizing foreign cells in the blood is the most important for this discussion.
The people with Rh null or golden blood type usually may have
- Mild to moderate hemolytic anemia since birth: This leads to faster destruction of RBCs. This may cause low hemoglobin levels causing paleness and weariness. This occurs due to structural defects in RBCs like
- Mouth-like or slit-like shape
- Less elastic structure of red cells
- Abnormal red cell covering
- Increased fragility due to the lack of Rh antigen
- Altered blood cell volume
This blood is excellent for transfusion because it lacks common antigens, and it can be accepted by anyone who needs a transfusion without the risk of a blood transfusion reaction. However, due to its rarity, it gets extremely difficult to find this type.
Conversely, Rh null is usually not so good for the people who have it. If they ever require a blood transfusion, receiving any blood that does have the Rh antigen may inevitably cause a transfusion reaction.