“Super-human red blood cells” hide drugs from immune system attack
Researchers from McMaster University have developed what they are calling “super-human red blood cells.” The technique they've developed loads normal red blood cells with synthetic drug molecules to create a powerful hybrid cell designed to deliver drugs to targeted locations in the body.
A number of compelling drug delivery methods are currently in development with researchers creating complex new synthetic particles designed to enter the human body and home in on a specific destination with incredible precision. Of course, our immune system is fundamentally designed to hunt down and destroy non-endogenous compounds so these particles are often limited in their efficacy.
One way to escape the body’s natural defenses is to hide a therapeutic molecule inside a cell, much in the same way a threat hides within a Trojan horse. Red blood cells are one of the most abundant cells in the human body, and prior research has revealed them to be perfect carriers for therapeutic payloads.
An impressive new study published in the journal Advanced Biosystems describes a fascinating new method whereby red blood cells are essentially hollowed out and filled with a synthetic liposome that could hypothetically encapsulate any number of different kinds of drug molecules.
"We call these super-human red blood cells,” says Maikel Rheinstädter, a senior adviser on the study. “We think that they could work as the perfect stealth drug carriers which can outsmart our immune system.”
The new study offers a proof-of-concept that outlines how to specifically engineer these hybrid molecules. While further targeting systems may need to be refined to help the molecules home in on a desired site, the hybrid red blood cells are hypothesized as being able to effectively circulate around a human body for weeks. The method is also suggested to be speedy and efficient, without requiring a significant amount of time for a researcher to carry out.
"We have combined synthetic material with biological material and created a new structure, which has never been done before in this way," explains Sebastian Himbert, lead author on the new study. "The entire process is very efficient and can be completed in one day in the lab.”
It is still early days for the research, however, with animal studies yet to confirm how the hybrid red blood cells behave in a living organism.
The new study was published in the journal Advanced Biosystems.
Source: McMaster University