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Surprising Science

Microscopic Delivery

Scientists have created synthetic red blood cells that can effectively carry oxygen as well as medicine throughout the body.

“Scientists at UC Santa Barbara, in collaboration with scientists at University of Michigan, have developed synthetic particles that closely mimic the characteristics and key functions of natural red blood cells, including softness, flexibility, and the ability to carry oxygen. The primary function of natural red blood cells is to carry oxygen, and the synthetic red blood cells (sRBCs) do that very well, retaining 90% of their oxygen-binding capacity after a week. The sRBCs also, however, have been shown to deliver therapeutic drugs effectively and with controlled release, and to carry well-distributed contrast agents for enhanced resolution in diagnostic imaging. ‘This ability to create flexible biomimetic carriers for therapeutic and diagnostic agents really opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in drug delivery and similar applications,’ noted UCSB chemical engineering professor Samir Mitragotri.”


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