ProMetic Life Sciences, a company out of Mont-Royal, Quebec, has developed a blood filter touted to remove prions responsible for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Considering that currently there is no available test for vCJD in donated blood, filtering may soothe the nerves of potential transfusion recipients.
The team took five years to create the hand-sized filter, screening millions of small peptides to find one that had the strongest affinity for the prions found in contaminated blood. They stuck the best peptide onto commercial polymethacrylate resins, and then sandwiched these in alternating layers with a membrane
In tests, the disposable filter can clean the prions out of a single pack of contaminated blood in less than an hour. No prions remain in the cleaned blood, which is otherwise unchanged by the process. Tests with prion-infected hamsters showed that their filtered blood could be injected into disease-free hamsters with no ill effects.
The team hope that the UK’s National Blood Service could be using the device by the end of this year. Peter Edwardson, ProMetic’s vice-president of medical technologies, says that Ireland’s clinical trial, aiming to confirm that the filtered red blood cells are just as effective as untreated blood when transfused into humans, should be complete in a few months.