The S.C.A.R.F. (Serum, Cells
and Rare Fluids) Exchange was organized in 1972 to facilitate
the dissemination of unique blood group samples amongst blood group reference
laboratories. Such laboratories generally specialized in the identification of antibody(s)
against red blood cells, which are frequently found in multi-transfused individuals or
multiparous females. At that time few, if any, laboratories had a collection of the
extremely rare blood group phenotypes or even some of the common known, ethnic-associated
blood group types. The original intent was for each SCARF Exchange member to share yearly
with other members a sample of blood of a unique phenotype, an example of any unusual
antibody against red cells or a fluid (lectin, animal serum or other unique fluid). These
would be useful in the identification and/or classification of antibodies against red cell
membranes. In return the SCARF member could expect to receive a suitable unique sample
from all of the other members on the Exchange list.
During the first year, there were only 27 scientists that agreed to participate, with a general
feeling that the truly unique samples would be hoarded and not disseminated. However over
the next few years, with the sharing of some extremely rare samples and a growing
reputation of generous cooperation, more red cell serologists requested inclusion within
the Exchange group. By the beginning of the 1990s there were over 150 blood group
reference laboratories located throughout the world (on all of the continents except
Greenland and Antartica; from Umea to Perth and from Moscow to Osaka) exchanging samples
with other red cell serologists for the resolution of complex cases.
Starting in 1993, leukocytes from some of the distributed blood samples
were separated, genomic DNA was extracted and stored for future use. Thus, a genetic
library of individuals with unique red cell phenotypes was started with the intent that it
to would be available to all SCARF Exchange members or qualified scientists
studying red cell blood group antigens at the genetic level. This library has proven to be
extremely useful for the rapid collection and investigation of selected DNA samples,
otherwise the investigators would have had to spend years investigating thousands of blood
samples to get comparable material.
With the development of this WebPage, the SCARF Exchange has
entered a new era. Now, participants can list what they have immediately available and
other members can request new samples to replenish or complete their red cell library.
Also, this world-wide organization is available to assist various scientists attempting to
located sources of unusual red cell membranes or DNA.