Scientists create a kind of Red Blood Cell 2.0

A challenge constantly faced by researchers developing new drug delivery methods is how to create particles that will stay in the blood stream for an extended amount of time, according to Joseph DeSimone, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He and his colleagues found one solution that, according to DeSimone, "represents a real game changer for the future of nanomedicine." What they did was create a kind of Blood Cell 2.0--synthetic particles that are as flexible as real red blood cells and can stay in the body longer.

Researchers used technology called Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates (PRINT)  to produce very soft hydrogel particles that imitate the size, shape and flexibility of red blood cells, allowing them to circulate in the body for extended periods of time. While tests of the particles' ability to transport oxygen or carry therapeutic drugs have not been conducted, researchers say the findings--especially regarding flexibility--are significant because red blood cells naturally deform in order to pass through microscopic pores in organs and narrow blood vessels.

Nanotech pioneer Chad Mirkin seems to be impressed. "These findings are significant since the ability to reproducibly synthesize micron-scale particles with tunable deformability that can move through the body unrestricted as do red blood cells, opens the door to a new frontier in treating disease," said Mirkin in a statement. Mirkin is director of Northwestern University's International Institute for Nanotechnology and a member of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The study, "Using Mechano-biological Mimicry of Red Blood Cells to Extend Circulation Times of Hydrogel Microparticles," appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

- check out the UNC release
- read a report in SmartPlanet
- and the PNAS abstract