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Rosalyn Yalow’s contribution to blood donation

OneBlood March 12, 2019

Nobel Prize winner Rosalyn Yalow is considered one of the most influential women in science, but most of us have never heard of her or her accomplishments. Thanks to the work of Rosalyn Yalow, blood banks and laboratories around the world have the ability to scan blood for infectious diseases, making transfusions much safer for blood recipients.

women's history

Breaking glass ceilings

Yalow’s life depicts many of the challenges faced by women in science careers, even today. 

In her biography, Yalow remembers entering college and wanting to study physics. Her family thought it would be far more practical for her to become an elementary school teacher.

Even her professors thought her best entry into the tough field she was pursuing would be as a part-time secretary and requested her to take stenography courses to learn the process of writing in shorthand and taking dictation.  

rosalyn yalow

Rosalyn Yalow


Fortunately Yalow had different plans and her hard work and intelligence allowed her the opportunity of a teaching assistantship in physics at the University of Illinois.

But what does physics have to do with blood donation?

Yalow developed radioimmunoassay, known as RIA. RIA is a technique for determining antibody levels by introducing an antigen labeled with a radioisotope and measuring the subsequent radioactivity of the antibody component.

The technique is used to detect and measure antigens in the body, which made it possible for laboratories to scan blood for infectious diseases, such as hepatitis. Having the ability to scan blood for infectious diseases makes blood transfusions safer for recipients.

Since the safety of the blood supply is our top concern, OneBlood tests all donated blood before sending it out to local hospitals.

Learn more about the Journey of Blood to see what happens to your blood donation after it leaves our donor center or the Big Red Bus.

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