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We Can Replace Your Blood Cells With Synthetics

Illustration for article titled We Can Replace Your Blood Cells With Synthetics

A few years from now, your blood transfusion may contain synthetic blood cells (pictured) almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Except in one important way: These synth-cells can be stuffed with drugs for special delivery via your circulatory system.

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A team of California researchers discovered that they could create blood cells by layering hemoglobin and other proteins on top of a microscopic, donut-shaped polymer mold. When the proteins had a stable structure, they removed the polymer mold and presto - they had a classic blood-cell shaped hollow vessel. The cells are also biodegradable, so you wouldn't have synth-cells roaming your body forever. Here are typical red blood cells, below.

Illustration for article titled We Can Replace Your Blood Cells With Synthetics
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One synth-cell could carry oxygen through the blood just like a typical red blood cell, its unique shape allowing it to squeeze through tiny capillaries. But it could also carry drugs like anti-coagulant heparin, releasing it gradually. This could prove a boon for doctors trying to administer drugs to highly-targeted areas fed by the circulatory system. And of course it could prove a perfect system for hiding data or other sensitive substances in your bloodstream. One injection of synth-cells and you're carrying secret plans around in your blood that can't be detected by anyone.

via PNAS

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DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

This research has been going on for a decade or more. the biggest customer for synthetic blood is the military - it's invaluable on the battlefield.