Genetically engineered red blood cells could be drug delivery drones

red blood cells

Red blood cells may one day do more than carry oxygen around the body – they have been genetically engineered to act as miniature drug delivery vehicles.

Many drugs only last for hours in the bloodstream before being broken down by the liver. Since red blood cells live for several months, a team at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts wondered if engineering them to carry drugs may offer a longer-lasting alternative.

To find out, the researchers took bone marrow from mice and isolated the cellular precursors to red blood cells. They inserted a gene for a protein called Kell that sits on the cell surface.

Kell acts like a handle, says team member Hidde Ploegh. Molecules can be attached to it by bathing the precursor cells with enzymes and the desired molecules.

ADVERTISEMENT

The team was able to attach an easy-to-track molecule called biotin. When the altered cells were injected into mice, they survived almost as long as normal.

In future tests, drugs or antibodies could be attached instead. “You can pretty much attach anything you wish,” says Ploegh.

It should also be possible to send drugs to different parts of the body by attaching antibodies that recognise molecules on specific tissues as well as the medicine, he says.

Read the full, original story: Designer red blood cells could move drugs around body

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
GLP Podcasts
Infographic: Here’s where GM crops are grown around the world today

Infographic: Here’s where GM crops are grown around the world today

Do you know where biotech crops are grown in the world? This updated ISAAA infographics show where biotech crops were ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

* indicates required
Email Lists
Send this to a friend