A team of researchers has created synthetic red blood cells (RBCs) that have all the useful properties of biological ones, and other additional characteristics.
These new cells, synthetic red blood cells, could be put into action to transport into the blood oxygen or drugs through the body while detecting toxins or performing other tasks.
Let's talk about the real ones for a moment
Needless to say, red blood cells perform a vital function, carrying oxygen from the lungs to all tissues in the body.
They do this by means of molecules called hemoglobins, with iron-containing proteins that bind to oxygen.
Red blood cells also have a number of safety features that allow them to do their job properly. They can "stretch" and "stretch" to cross the tiny capillaries, for example
Synthetic red blood cells
In previous attempts to create synthetic versions of red blood cells, scientists have had some trouble mimicking all of these properties. Now, researchers from the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories, and South China University of Technology have created synthetic red blood cells that can do all of this and more.
To make the cells synthetic, the researchers clearly started with real ones. Human red blood cells from donors were initially covered with a thin layer of silica to act as a "mold", followed by layers of polymers with positive and negative charges. The silica was then removed and finally the surface was coated with natural membranes.
The final result? Artificial red blood cells that are similar in size, shape, charge and surface proteins to real ones.
The team showed that these synthetic red blood cells were able to deform enough to penetrate through small spaces in the model capillaries. In tests in mice, the cells circulated for over 48 hours, and the team found no toxic side effects.
In other tests, the team showed the various other abilities these synthetic red blood cells may have. They successfully transported several loads of hemoglobin, anticancer drugs, toxin sensors and magnetic nanoparticles.
The team plans to continue studying and testing the cells, hoping to eventually prepare them for human testing.
The research has been published on ACS Nano magazine.