New synthetic red blood cells mimic natural, can carry drugs and detect toxins
Researchers have developed synthetic red blood cells that not only fully mimic all the properties of natural ones, but also possess a number of new therapeutic abilities..
The main function of red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the lungs to tissues throughout the body..
Each such cell contains millions of hemoglobin molecules, has a high elasticity to squeeze through the narrowest capillaries, and is coated with a special protein that protects against attacks of the immune system.
Previous versions of artificial red blood cells had only one or several natural traits, but not all at once. However, a team of scientists from the American Chemical Society has developed a technology to create a full-fledged synthetic analogue that is capable of performing other useful functions..
To do this, the researchers first coated human donor red blood cells with a thin layer of silica, on top of which positively and negatively charged polymers were applied. The team then etched silica, creating flexible artificial copies of cells, and coated their surface with natural red blood cell membranes..
The size, shape, charge, and surface proteins of the synthetic analogs were identical to natural ones, and they could also squeeze through the capillary models. After being in the blood of mice for more than 48 hours, they showed no noticeable signs of toxicity..
In further experiments, scientists placed hemoglobin molecules, anti-cancer drugs, toxin sensors and magnetic nanoparticles inside the created cells to demonstrate their ability to carry various loads and be controlled remotely..
Among other things, synthetic red blood cells can serve as a bait for bacterial toxins..
We also previously reported on the discovery of a protein that turns cancer cells into normal cells..
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: American Chemical Society, blenderartists