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Shanice Williams Sickle Cell Survivor

Ro Blood Type Donor Program

The Ro blood type is extremely rare but is invaluable for patients with sickle cell disease.

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Why is the Ro Blood Type So Important?

Of the entire U.S. population, only 5% donate blood—that’s less than the entire population of New York City.

And of that small group of generous donors, only a fraction have a blood type called Ro. Ro donors have special markers on their red blood cells, and while this blood type is normal, it’s uncommon.

Having Ro blood does not mean someone has or is at risk for sickle cell disease.


Shanice Bowen

Sickle cell patients may require chronic blood transfusions to treat their disease, and many feel the most healthy after they receive blood. Since 44% of African Americans have Ro blood, providing matched Ro blood to sickle cell patients may provide a safer blood transfusion and additional benefits, including:

  • Increased life expectancy
  • Stroke prevention
  • Fewer trips to the emergency room
  • Pain reduction
  • Enhanced quality of life

Ro blood cannot be created in a lab; it is only available as a result of the generosity of people like you. As an Ro donor, you are special; you serve a unique need, and you have the power to save the lives of sickle cell patients in your community.

Marqus Valentine has beaten sickle cell disease – and the odds. Many sickle cell patients do not live into adulthood. Marqus has made it into his 30s thanks to the generosity of blood donors, who have helped him receive more than 500 life-saving donations during his life.

Sickle Cell Disease Research

Investigators at Versiti’s Blood Research Institute are on the forefront of blood health advances for a variety of conditions, including sickle cell disease (SCD), which affects 1 in 400 African American newborns in the United States. SCD causes a patient’s red blood cells to become misshapen, impeding their ability to deliver oxygen throughout the body. They block the flow of blood, often causing debilitating pain.

Versiti conducts a variety of clinical research in SCD for both adult and pediatric patients, helping to diagnose and treat their disease. Blood Research Institute Investigator Joshua Field, MD, has made it his life’s mission to better the lives of patients suffering from SCD. In addition to his groundbreaking research at the BRI, he regularly treats patients at the Adult Sickle Cell Clinic, helping to manage their condition.

Clinical Treatment for Sickle Cell Patients

In collaboration with local hospitals, Versiti contributes to the operation of clinics that provide comprehensive patient care for adults and children with sickle cell disease.

The Adult Sickle Cell Clinic, located at Froedtert Hospital, is the only one of its kind in Wisconsin. Established in 2011, it provides comprehensive care for adult patients with SCD, including blood transfusions, pain management, preventative treatment and other therapies.

Additionally, the Sickle Cell Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin provides a comprehensive care model for roughly 400 children with SCD each year. It offers both inpatient and outpatient treatment, and healthcare providers and scientists from seven departments at the Medical College of Wisconsin participate in research activities.

The Importance of Donor Screening

Blood donor screening is the backbone of transfusion medicine, and Versiti’s labs have distinguished us as the go-to resource for matching patients with donated blood. When patients receive blood transfusions, they are exposed to different antigens, which stimulate the creation of antibodies. Our state-of-the-art genotyping test has identified 44 different blood group antigens, helping us ensure that chronically transfused patients—like those with sickle cell disease—receive perfectly matched blood products.

Versiti is proud to maintain the largest known pool of more than 100,000 genotyped donors, and has received awards from the American Rare Donor Program for providing the greatest number of rare blood units. With the combined expertise of Versiti blood centers, we possess an unrivaled ability to comprehensively support more than 10 different sickle cell disease programs across the United States.

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Ro Blood Donors

  • Does having Ro Blood mean that I am more likely to be sick?

    No, Ro characteristics on blood cells are not abnormal and perform normally. Ro does not mean that you have sickle cell.

  • Does it mean it will be difficult for me to receive blood?

    The vast majority of blood recipients have no trouble. Patients on chronic transfusions, like those with Sickle Cell Disease, are at a higher risk for developing issues if more specifically matched blood is not available.

  • Does my family have this too?

    Perhaps, like all blood types Ro is inherited from your parents. There is a significant chance that others in your family also have this special type.

  • How do you know if I am a Ro donor?

    Versiti tests every donor’s blood to find the best matches for patients. This is how we ensure an ample blood supply for hospitals and patients. After donating, if your blood has Ro characteristics, Versiti may contact you to let you know your blood is very needed.

  • How often will you need me?

    Ideally, three or more donations a year. Sickle Cell Disease patients reliant on transfusion require 8-10 units per month. That means they rely on 8-10 donors a month for one treatment. You are invaluable to these patients!

  • What's an Ro Donor?

    It is a normal blood type that is specially found in only 4% of our current donors.

  • What's different about these donors?

    They don’t express specific proteins that make their blood a safer transfusion for those with sickle cell disease.

  • Where does my blood go?

    Versiti supplies sickle cell disease programs locally and nationally, your blood will be sent to the patient that needs it most.

You Can Save a Life!

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