The poly(acrylic acid) used in the study is the same material found in disposable diapers and one of the most abundant synthetic polymers on the planet. This particular polymer, Professor Kumar says, is very hydrophilic, meaning it likes water. The polymer naturally binds to hemoglobin, creating a tight seal that protects the protein molecule and allows it to retain its structural integrity even after heating to 120˚C for extended periods of time (steam sterilization).
In a paper published last year in the Journal of Materials Chemistry, Kumar and his team showed how hemoglobin wrapped in low molecular weight poly(acrylic acid) formed nanoparticles that retained their natural state and structure, even after they were subjected to the harsh conditions of steam sterilization. Under the same conditions, hemoglobin samples that were not wrapped in the polymer lost the majority of their structure and function.
Kumar said these test results signaled the project's breakthrough moment.
As part of its research, the team chose to examine the feasibility of using hemoglobin as an artificial blood substitute. Hemoglobin, when extracted from blood, breaks down and is toxic in its pure form. Since hemoglobin is the critical oxygen carrier protein in blood, Kumar and his team are looking at ways of stabilizing hemoglobin in its natural form so that it retains its activity and stays harmless when administered as a transfusion agent. This could lead to a new substitute for human blood, which is frequently in short supply. Blood shortages are expected to get worse in coming years as more and more people in the world would need blood transfusions, Kumar said.
The research has caught the attention of scientists at Merck, a global leader in prescription med
|Contact: Challa V. Kumar|
University of Connecticut