Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill have created particles that mimic red blood cells in size, shape and flexibility. Using a fabrication process called Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates, or PRINT, 6 μm hydrogel discs are produced that can circulate through the body for 93 hours before they are excreted, compared to about 3 hours for the stiffer particles that are currently being researched. Other functions, such as oxygen transport or therapeutic drug delivery, have not been tested, but these flexible particles are a major improvement because red blood cells naturally deform in order to pass through capillaries. These new flexible hydrogel particles are also able to move through the body in a similar fashion, and are removed from the body by the spleen, the organ that typically removes red blood cells.
An equally exciting application for these particles is for cancer treatment:
Beyond moving closer to producing fully synthetic blood, the findings could affect approaches to treating cancer. Cancer cells are softer than healthy cells, enabling them to lodge in different places in the body, leading to the disease’s spread. Particles loaded with cancer-fighting medicines that can remain in circulation longer may open the door to more aggressive treatment approaches.
Link @ UNC: UNC researchers inch closer to unlocking potential of synthetic blood…