Genetically engineered red blood cells are treating autoimmune diseases and cancer for direct and personalized drug delivery.
Healthcare is increasingly intelligent, with injury and disease treatment enhanced by each bespoke development. A new style of contact lens is now available that provides a slow release of medication to both the front and back of the eye for a range of illnesses and disease and can be worn for two weeks. Particularly useful for battlefield shrapnel wounds, a new bandage made from seaweed can be injected into a wound to help treat blood loss and save lives by triggering the body to begin the wound healing process.
Going even further into the body to help heal, is a new type of red blood cell developed by the Cambridge, Massachusetts based Rubius Therapeutics. Dubbed superblood, the genetically modified cells have no nucleus so won’t be targeted for removal by the recipient’s immune system. By being injected directly into a patient’s blood stream, the cells – loaded with the treatments relevant to the disease – quickly travel throughout the body to reach the exact location needed. Without a nucleus, the cells cannot morph into something dangerous, eliminating a potential side effect. And by using a universally required biological component, the researchers have created an off-the-shelf drug delivery system that can be completely personalized with only the minimum of resources.
The company’s proprietary Red-Cell Therapeutics products can be used in very small doses due to the cells’ targeting capability. Working in partnership with the body’s own immune system processes, the new red blood cells are likely to be much safer in the long run and enables combination therapies. Combination therapies are designed to be swifter and more effective than a number of separate treatments. Additionally, the increased safety of this targeted method of delivering treatments could prove ideal for patients looking for long-term management of chronic diseases. How might some of these types of healthcare innovations be adapted for earlier detection or even prevention of certain illnesses and disease?