Before the development of the molecular biology tools that make DNA testing possible, investigators identified people through blood typing. This method hails from 1900, when Karl Landsteiner first discovered that people inherited different blood types. Several decades later, researchers determined that the basis for those blood types was a set of proteins on the surface of red blood cells.
The main proteins on the surface of red blood cells used in blood typing come in two varieties: A and B. Every person inherits from their parents either the genes for the A protein, the B protein, both, or neither. Someone who inherits the A gene from one parent and neither gene from the other parent has blood type A. If a person inherits both genes, they are AB. A person who inherits neither is type O. Another protein group found on red blood cells is referred to collectively as the Rh factor. People either have the Rh factor or they do not, regardless of which of the A and B genes they inherited. To type a person's blood, antibodies against these various proteins (A, B, and Rh) are mixed with a blood sample. If the proteins are present, the blood cells will stick together and the sample will get cloudy.
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