Designing the Future of Medicine: an Artificial Red Blood Cell

Built to Optimize Traditional Functions and Enable Proactive Diagnosis and Treatment of Infections

My Proposal: Artificial Red Blood Cell

More specifically, polyethylene glycol-polylactic acid copolymer nanocapsule encapsulating polyhemoglobin-superoxide dismutase-catalase-carbonic anhydrase, Apabetalone, the chemical inhibitor of CD47-SIRPα, Cyclodextrin-statin, Aliskiren and Midodrine. The nanocapsule’s surface is configured with polyethylene glycol, oxLDL, tissue plasminogen activator, various antibodies, bradykinin receptors and renin receptors.

TLDR

As requested by several readers, here’s a quick outline of the purpose of each of the aspects mentioned above.

Principles

Primarily, this was designed as an enhanced artificial red blood cell, meaning it would perform all the regular functions of the red blood cell, but also include capabilities for the proactive diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and viral/bacterial infections.

Quick Information

Important information that doesn’t require a full explanation

PolyHb-SOD-CAT-CA — Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Transport + Antioxidant Mechanism

As I am sure you’re aware, the primary function of red blood cells is the delivery of oxygen from the lungs to all the cells around the body, and the reverse function of delivering carbon dioxide.

Source
Visualization of the interactions of O₂ and CO₂ with a traditional tissue cell. Source

Polyethylene Glycol — Evading the RES

The reticuloendothelial system (RES) also known as the mononuclear phagocyte system, is a subsection of the immune system to remove dead or abnormal cells, tissues and foreign substances, especially nanoparticles. According to Gref et al., Unprotected nanoparticles, of all different compositions, can be removed by the RES within seconds.

Process of Opsonization. Opsonin (blue), Nanoparticle (Red) and Phagocyte (Yellow). Source
Example of a PEG-coated gold nanoparticle. Source

Polyethylene Glycol — Polylactic Acid Copolymer Membrane

Polylactic acid (PLA) polymers are the copolymers used in the development of the nanocapsule, due to their high biocompatibility, low toxicity and approval by the FDA for medical implantation.

Proactive Diagnosis and Treatment of Atherosclerosis

Finally, time to get down to the meat of the article. Similar to any proactive medicine approach, a continuous diagnosis mechanism is required. In our case, a dual mechanism of using oxLDL to target LOX-1 receptors and incorporating interleukin-10, both on the surface of the nanoparticle, is used for the diagnosis.

Source
Oversimplified diagram of reverse cholesterol transport. Cholesterol (blue), HDL (green). Source

Regulating Blood Pressure

Unhealthy blood pressure consists of hypertension (too high) or hypotension (too low).

Diagnosis to Treatment of Infections

Ah, the simplest of all the functions of this artificial cell: infection treatment through aptamers (artificial antibodies).

Source

Solving Blood Incompatibility

Blood types are one of the major issues with traditional blood transfusions, however, they can be eliminated when red blood cells are engineered.

Nanocapsule Production

Red blood cells are by far the most abundant cell in the body, accounting for over 80% of all cells, therefore the production of artificial red blood cells needs to be scalable and efficient.

Diagram of each step of emulsion. Source
  1. The drugs and polymers are dissolved in a solvent
  2. The polymers evenly disperse and form copolymers — undergo emulsification
  3. The copolymers surround the dissolved drugs
  4. The solvent evaporates and the mixture forms into a nanocapsule
Another representation of the process of emulsion solvent evaporation. Source

Final Thoughts

I loved working on this project and designing the artificial cell because it is leveraging nanotech to tackle such an important problem to treat diseases in the present, but also pioneer a future of proactive diagnosis and treatment in the body. While there are several logistical roadblocks to making this proposal a large-scale reality, I definitely want to continue to work to develop a prototype.

Thanks for Reading!

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Aahaan Maini

16-year-old ML dev currently building Circulate to tackle the blood shortage in India