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Synthetic Red Blood Cells Developed
Date:12/14/2009

Soft and synthetic red-blood-cell-like particles carry oxygen, drugs, and more…

Santa Barbara, California (Vocus) -- Scientists at UC Santa Barbara, in collaboration with scientists at University of Michigan, have developed synthetic particles that closely mimic the characteristics and key functions of natural red blood cells, including softness, flexibility, and the ability to carry oxygen.

The primary function of natural red blood cells is to carry oxygen, and the synthetic red blood cells (sRBCs) do that very well, retaining 90% of their oxygen-binding capacity after a week. The sRBCs also, however, have been shown to deliver therapeutic drugs effectively and with controlled release, and to carry well-distributed contrast agents for enhanced resolution in diagnostic imaging.

“This ability to create flexible biomimetic carriers for therapeutic and diagnostic agents really opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in drug delivery and similar applications,” noted UCSB chemical engineering professor Samir Mitragotri. “We know that we can further engineer sRBCs to carry additional therapeutic agents, both encapsulated in the sRBC and on its surface.”

Mitragotri, his research group, and their collaborators from the University of Michigan succeeded in synthesizing the particles by creating a polymer doughnut-shaped template, coating the template with up to nine layers of hemoglobin and other proteins, then removing the core template. The resulting particles have the same size and flexibility, and can carry as much oxygen, as natural red blood cells. The flexibility, absent in “conventional” polymer-based biomaterials developed as carriers for therapeutic and diagnostic agents, gives the sRBCsthe ability to flow through channels smaller than their resting diameter, stretching in response to flow and regaining their disco
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