Nanoparticles Hitchhike On Red Blood Cells

Picture: Nanoparticles attached to red blood cells

Polymer nanoparticles attach to red
blood cells and remain in circulation
for prolonged times; © Peter Allen

Polymeric nanoparticles are excellent carriers for delivering drugs. They protect drugs from degradation until they reach their target and provide sustained release of drugs. Polymeric nanoparticles, however, suffer from one major limitation: they are quickly removed from the blood, sometimes in minutes, rendering them ineffective in delivering drugs.

The research team, led by Samir Mitragotri, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that nanoparticles can be forced to remain in the circulation when attached to red blood cells. The particles eventually detach from the blood cells due to shear forces and cell-to-cell interactions, and are cleared from the system by the liver and spleen. Red blood cell circulation is not affected by attaching the nanoparticles.

“Attachment of polymeric nanoparticles to red blood cells combines the advantages of the long circulating lifetime of the red blood cell, and their abundance, with the robustness of polymeric nanoparticles,” said Mitragotri. “Using red blood cells to extend the circulation time of the particles avoids the need to modify the surface chemistry of the entire particle, which offers the potential to attach chemicals to the exposed surface for targeting applications.”

The researchers have learned that particles adhered to red blood cells can escape phagocytosis because red blood cells have a knack for evading macrophages. The researchers say that it may be possible to keep the nanoparticles in circulation for a relatively long time, theoretically up to the circulation lifetime of a red blood cell – which is 120 days – if the binding between particles and the red blood cells is strengthened. The methodology is applicable to drugs that are effective while still attached to a red blood cell, although the researchers say that slow release from the red blood cell surface is also feasible.; Source: Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine