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ASH: Synthetic Blood Cell Passes Proof-of-Concept Testing

Last Updated: December 07, 2016.

According to a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, held from Dec. 3 to 6 in San Diego, an artificial red blood cell has been created that can effectively pick up oxygen in the lungs and deliver it to tissues throughout the body.

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- According to a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, held from Dec. 3 to 6 in San Diego, an artificial red blood cell has been created that can effectively pick up oxygen in the lungs and deliver it to tissues throughout the body.

The artificial blood cell, which is about one-fiftieth the size of a normal red blood cell, is made from purified human hemoglobin proteins that have been coated with a synthetic polymer. The coating was developed by the study's lead researcher, Dipanjan Pan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of bioengineering with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The surface chemistry of the polymer reacts to the pH level of blood as it travels through the body, senior researcher Allan Doctor, M.D., a critical care specialist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told HealthDay. It captures oxygen when blood pH is high, and releases oxygen when blood pH is low. The polymer coating also keeps the hemoglobin from reacting with nitric oxide in the bloodstream, thus preventing dangerous constriction of the blood vessels, he added. And because the polymer coating is "immune silent," the artificial blood can be used in anyone regardless of blood type, Doctor said.

Lab tests involving mice and rats have proven that the artificial red blood cells can effectively deliver oxygen to needy tissues, the researchers reported. "We replaced 70 percent of the mouse's blood volume with the blood substitute," Doctor said. "Those mice were indistinguishable from those who received a transfusion from another mouse."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to KaloCyte, which is developing the artificial blood cell.

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