The Loh Down On Science

Plastic Blood

The new word in blood? Plastics.

The new word in blood? PLASTICS.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and on plastic blood. But Why?

Well, a typical blood cell measures between five and ten microns. But to travel through tiny capillaries, blood cells have to deform and squeeze down to skinny worm-like shapes less than half their normal size. This while carrying cargo like oxgen molecules.

In conditions like sickle cell disease or malaria, the blood cells CAN'T contort.

Artificial blood cells could do the trick --if researchers could only figure out how to mimic the tiny size and flexibility of real blood cells.

Enter Joseph DeSimone at the University of North Carolina. He has developed faux-blood cells made from tiny sacs of a polymer called.POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL.

The plastic sacs are the size of blood cells. They're flexible enough to change their shape and shimmy into the tiniest capillary. Plus, they bind easily with the oxygen-carrying molecules in real blood.

The sacs could also carry drugs or contrast agents for imaging systems, like MRI's and PET scans.

Or tiny shrunken scientists, like in the Fantastic Voyage! Even Racquel Welch! At least most of Racquel Welch. They're plastic sacs, not miracle workers. Ba-dump-bump.


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