(ORDO NEWS) — Thanks to the rapid progress in technology, humanity goes beyond what nature gives us. Now it is the turn of the blood, and researchers are finding a new way to mimic tissue that carries oxygen.
By combining biological material with polymers grown in the laboratory, an international team of bioengineers has developed a red blood cell terminator – more than able to match the talent of what is already in our veins.
This microscopic cyborg can not only squeeze through the secluded corners of the vascular system with its usual hemoglobin, it can be modified to deliver drugs that kill tumors, transfer biosensors and even strewn with tiny magnets for best remote control.
If you try to reconfigure any cell in the human body, you really cannot go past red blood cells (RBCs). One of the few cells that lacks a nucleus, the red cell is relatively simple, which makes it an attractive target for engineers.
Therefore, there are already several synthetic red blood cells in development. Many studies rely on the selection of key materials, such as hemoglobin, from human or animal donors and repackage them into benign particles that are unlikely to elicit an immune response.
Some of the pathways studied are a bit more adventurous, up to the creation of powerful particles that can carry toxic types of highly reactive oxygen through the vascular system to destroy cancerous tissues.
“Inspired by the aforementioned pioneering studies in which synthetic constructs were created that achieved one or more key features of native red blood cells, we sought to create a modularly remodeled red blood cell imitation (RRBC) that had the full combined characteristics of native red blood cells,” the researchers write.
This means that their bionic facial expressions must be of suitable size, shape and flexibility in order to pass through the narrowest vessels of the body; stay intact long enough to be useful; and still carry the right amount of oxygen.
To achieve their goal, they began by coating donor blood cells with a layer of silica, which was then supplemented with polymers of different charges.
The result is an empty biconcave shell, which can be filled with any biochemical mechanism that your heart desires, and at the same time switch to oxygen red blood cells.
Many tests using laboratory equipment and animals have shown that bionic blood cells live up to expectations. Four weeks after the injection, the mice showed no evidence of side effects.
Clearly, there is a long way to go before we see any treatment methods based on artificial blood cells. We will need not only a lot of testing to verify the feasibility of the cargo they carry, but also to demonstrate the scalability of the entire process.
Turning our body’s own cells into tiny killer robots to attack wayward tissues and infections is a popular strategy for bioengineers. Time will tell if this is really a victory formula.
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