Building Synthetic Blood

Artificial blood may be on the horizon

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have gotten closer to the creation of synthetic blood by creating tiny, flexible particles that can circulate in the body and closely mimic red blood cells.

Synthetic blood isn't quite a reality yet, at least not outside of the popular HBO vampire series "True Blood." However, scientists have recently created particles that are very similar to red blood cells.

A team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have produced very soft particles that are similar in shape and size to red blood cells. However, they do not remain in the blood stream for as long a time and their ability to perform crucial functions like carrying oxygen has not been tested.

Their most important characteristic is their flexibility, which is a vital component of blood cells that allows them to take different shapes in order to pass through miniscule openings in organs and blood vessels. Flexibility has been a major roadblock in the past when trying to create synthetic blood cells.

These flexible particles hold a great deal of potential for cancer treatment, since they could eventually have the ability to stay in the bloodstream longer. Cancer-fighting medicines could benefit from improved drug delivery in the blood, which could be achieved if these synthetic particles are perfected for extended circulation.

Chad Mirkin, Ph.D, a professor at Northwestern University, says that this research "opens the door to a new frontier in treating disease."

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Review Date: 
January 14, 2011
Last Updated:
January 14, 2011