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    Blood Type Importance
    Elementary School Lab Experiments & Background Information
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    This experiment is courtesy of 

    Time Allowance:
    60 minutes

    Primary Goals:

  • simulating blood coagulation

  • simulating blood separation
  • Blood Chemistry was developed by research scientist Paul Reibach, Ph.D. and teacher Kate Loal from S.B. Huey School in the Philadelphia School District to help students learn about the basic properties of blood, and why blood type is important.


    What You'll Need


    Materials required for eight groups:

  • 1 graduated cylinder

  • 1 mixing jar

  • 24 pipettes

  • safety glasses

  • Nitrile safety gloves

  • 1 container of red glitter

  • 1 bottle white vinegar

  • 1 bottle of Future® acrylic floor polish

  • 1 small bottle of red food coloring

  • 1 bottle mineral oil

  • water
  • 56 plastic vials

      - 8 labeled Type A

      - 8 labeled Type B

      - 8 labeled Type O

      - 8 labeled whole blood

      - 8 labeled A+O

      - 8 labeled B+O

      - 8 labeled A+B
  • In Advance

    What you must do before the class begins:

  • "Type A Blood" -- Measure 25 ml floor polish, 100 ml water and 1 ml red food dye in a mixing jar.

  • Fill the 8 small vials labeled "Type A" with this mixture, and put the caps on the vials.

  • Clean the mixing jar and graduated cylinder thoroughly.

  • "Type B Blood" -- Measure 25 ml vinegar, 100 ml water and 1 ml red food dye in a mixing jar.

  • Fill the 8 small vials labeled "Type B" with this mixture and put the caps on the vials.

  • Clean the mixing jar and graduated cylinder thoroughly.

  • "Type O Blood" -- Measure 125 ml water and 1 ml red food dye in mixing jar.

  • Fill the 8 small vials labeled "Type O" with this mixture and put the caps on the vials.

  • Clean the mixing jar and graduated cylinder thoroughly.

  • Fill the 8 small vials labeled "whole blood" with mineral oil. Add red glitter. Cap the vials.

  • Safety Tips

    Explain to the class these tips for safety:

    Safety glasses are recommended. Although the materials being used in the experiment are generally safe, they can irritate or sting eyes upon contact. If contact does occur, flush eyes copiously with water.

    Safety gloves should also be worn during this experiment, since you will be simulating working with blood. It's important for students to understand that all health professionals wear gloves to prevent risks associated with contractible diseases like AIDS and hepatitis.

    Wash hands immediately after conducting the experiment. Do not put hands or fingers in mouth, or rub eyes, until after hands have been washed.

    Liquid materials used during the experiment can stain many surfaces, and should not be allowed to remain on clothing, upholstery or wood.

    Clean up any spilled materials immediately, as they can create a slip hazard on a tile or linoleum floor.

    Blood Types

    Before you begin, you should talk with the students about blood types.

    In some ways, every person's blood is the same. But, when analyzed under a microscope, distinct differences are visible. In the early 20th century, an Austrian scientist named Karl Landsteiner classified blood according to those differences. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his achievements.

    Landsteiner observed two distinct chemical molecules present on the surface of the red blood cells. He labeled one molecule "A" and the other molecule "B." If the red blood cell had only "A" molecules on it, that blood was called type A. If the red blood cell had only "B" molecules on it, that blood was called type B. If the red blood cell had a mixture of both molecules, that blood was called type AB. If the red blood cell had neither molecule, that blood was called type O.

    Why is blood type important?

    There are times when a person might need to receive a blood transfusion -- that is, receive another person's blood to replenish their own. If someone is in a bad accident where they've lost blood, or if someone is having surgery or is ill, they may need blood to replace what they've lost and to keep the oxygen supply to the body at a healthy level.

    It's important that an individual who receives a blood transfusion receive a blood type that is compatible with their own, or it could cause serious, life-threatening complications.

    If two different blood types are mixed together, the blood cells may begin to clump together in the blood vessels, causing a potentially fatal situation. Therefore, it is important that blood types be matched before blood transfusions take place. In an emergency, type O blood can be given because it's most likely to be accepted by all blood types. However, there is still a risk involved.

    • A person with type A blood can donate blood to a person with type A or type AB.

    • A person with type B blood can donate blood to a person with type B or type AB.

    • A person with type AB blood can donate blood to a person with type AB only.

    • A person with type O blood can donate to anyone.

    • A person with type A blood can receive blood from a person with type A or type O.

    • A person with type B blood can receive blood from a person with type B or type O.

    • A person with type AB blood can receive blood from anyone.

    • A person with type O blood can receive blood from a person with type O only.

    Because of these patterns, a person with type O blood is said to be a universal donor. A person with type AB blood is said to be a universal receiver. In general, however, it is still best to mix blood of matching types.

    Demonstration

    Explain to the class that you're about to investigate what happens when different blood types are mixed.

    Divide the class into 8 groups and arrange desks/chairs so that each member of the group can participate and observe the experiment.

    Explain to the students that they are not working with actual blood samples -- that you have used special solutions of water, vinegar, floor polish and red food coloring to simulate real blood.

    SAFETY CHECK!!! Make sure all the students are wearing safety glasses and their gloves.

    What you will do to demonstrate simulating blood coagulation (Part I)

    Distribute to each group:

    • 1 vial of Type A "blood"

    • 1 vial of Type B "blood"

    • 1 vial of Type O "blood"

    • 1 empty vial labeled "A+B"

    • 1 empty vial labeled "A+O"

    • 1 empty vial labeled "B+O"

    • 1 vial of "Whole blood"

    • 3 pipettes

    • enough safety glasses and gloves for each student in the group

    Instruct the students to:

      Use one dropper for each of the blood types -- they MUST NOT mix the droppers.

    Create a mixture in the vial marked "A+O".

    • First, ask them to hypothesize what is going to happen when you mix types A and O blood.

    • Carefully measure out a few dropperfuls of "Type A" blood and deposit it in the vial marked "A+O".

    • Carefully measure out a few dropperfuls of "Type O" blood and deposit it in the same vial.

    • Ask the students to report their observations aloud, record them in their workbooks. (Note to instructor, the mixture will not coagulate).

    Create a mixture in the vial marked "B+O".

    • Ask them to hypothesize what is going to happen when you mix types B and O blood.

    • Carefully measure out a few dropperfuls of "Type B" blood and deposit it in the vial marked "B+O".

    • Carefully measure out a few dropperfuls of "Type O" blood and deposit it in the same vial.

    • Ask the students to report their observations aloud, record them in their workbooks.(Note to instructor, the mixture will not coagulate).

    Create a mixture in the vial marked "A+B".

    • Ask them to hypothesize what is going to happen when you mix types A and B blood.

    • Carefully measure out a few dropperfuls of "Type A" blood and deposit it in the vial marked "A+B".

    • Carefully measure out a few dropperfuls of "Type B" blood and deposit it in the same vial.

    • Ask the students to report their observations aloud, record them in their workbooks. (Note to instructor, the blood WILL coagulate).


    Discussion for Part One

    • Which blood combinations are compatible? Not compatible? Why?

    • What would have happened if the "A+B" solution had been real blood, in a live human being? (Normal, healthy blood does not clump like the A+B solution. This "clumping" can lead to blood clots or other masses, which can block blood vessels and prevent the proper flow of blood and oxygen.)

    • Why don't the "A+O" and "B+O" combinations "coagulate." (Type O blood is the universal donor, and is compatible with or "matches" all blood types.)

    • If these solutions were real blood samples, what extra precautions would we need to take in conducting the experiment? (Medical professionals including doctors, nurses and others wear masks when handling blood.)

    • Why? (Explain that blood can carry diseases that are infectious -- such as AIDS, HIV and hepatitis. If diseased blood comes in contact with our own, we can become infected, too.)

    What you will do to demonstrate simulating blood separation (Part II)

    Blood may be transfused as whole blood or as one of its components. Because patients seldom require all of the components of whole blood, it makes sense to transfuse only that portion needed by the patient for a specific condition or disease.

    Whole blood is a living tissue that circulates through the heart, arteries, veins and capillaries carrying nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat and oxygen to the body's tissues. Whole blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets suspended in a fluid called plasma.

    If blood is treated to prevent clotting and permitted to stand in a container, the red blood cells, weighing the most, will settle to the bottom; the plasma will stay on top; and the white blood cells and platelets will remain suspended between the plasma and the red blood cells. A centrifuge may be used to hasten this separation process.

    Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a complex iron-containing protein that carries oxygen throughout the body and gives blood its red color. Patients who benefit most from transfusions of red blood cells include those with chronic anemia resulting from kidney failure, malignancies, or gastrointestinal bleeding and those with acute blood loss resulting from trauma.

    Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood -- a protein-salt solution in which red and white blood cells and platelets are suspended. It serves a variety of functions, from maintaining a satisfactory blood pressure and volume to supplying critical proteins for blood clotting and immunity. It also serves as the medium of exchange for vital minerals such as sodium and potassium, thus helping maintain a proper balance in the body, which is critical to cell function. Plasma is obtained by separating the liquid portion of blood from the cells.

    Cryoprecipitated AHF is the portion of plasma that is rich in certain clotting factors. It is used to prevent or control bleeding.

    Platelets (or thrombocytes) are very small cellular components of blood that help the clotting process by sticking to the lining of blood vessels. Platelets are made in the bone marrow and survive in the circulatory system for an average of 9-10 days before being removed from the body by the spleen. The platelet is vital to life, because it helps prevent both massive blood loss resulting from trauma and blood vessel leakage that would otherwise occur in the course of normal, day-to-day activity. Units of platelets are prepared by using a centrifuge to separate the platelet-rich plasma from the donated unit of whole blood. The platelet-rich plasma is then centrifuged again to concentrate the platelets further.


    Instruct the students to:

    • Pick up the jar marked "whole blood" and shake it vigorously.

    • Set the jar on a table, do not move it or pass it around.

    • Explain that while the glitter is suspended in the mineral oil, it represents whole blood.

    • As the glitter settles, explain that the solution represents separated blood -- the glitter representing "red blood cells" and the mineral oil representing plasma.


    Discussion for Part Two

    • What is a "centrifuge"?
      A centrifuge is a powerful laboratory device that spins rapidly to magnify the force of gravity. It is used to separate blood samples into blood cells and plasma.

      The centrifuge simulates an extreme force of gravity, which forces the blood to separate.

      Doctors and other medical professionals use the separated blood for a variety of medical procedures.

    • How do we preserve red blood cells and blood plasma?

      (Whole and separated blood samples are preserved with special refrigeration and storage units.)

    • Today, many individuals are not allowed to donate blood. Why?

      (If an individual has an infectious disease, such as AIDS/ HIV or hepatitis, it can be fatal if it's administered to another individual through a transfusion. Individuals who have hyper/hypotension or an abnormal heart rate may also be denied permission to donate blood. Certain religious sects do not allow blood donation or transfusions. Hemopheliacs lack an important clotting agent in their blood, which could make blood donation fatal for them.)




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