Reengineering red blood cells for cellular therapeutics and diagnostics

Research paper by Francesca Pierigè, Noemi Bigini, Luigia Rossi, Mauro Magnani

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 24 Jan '17Published in: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology


Recently optimized technologies that permit the reversible opening of nanopores across the red blood cell membrane, give the extraordinary opportunity for reengineering human erythrocytes to be used in different biomedical applications, both for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes. Engineered erythrocytes have been exploited as a system for the controlled release of drugs in circulation upon encapsulation of prodrugs or small molecules; as bioreactors when they are endowed of recombinant enzymes able to catalyze the conversion of toxic metabolite into inert products; as drug targeting system for the delivery of compounds to the reticuloendothelial system inducing proper senescent signals on the drug-loaded erythrocyte membrane; as carrier of contrasting agents for diagnostic procedures. Preclinical development of these different applications has taken advantage from the use of proper animal models whose erythrocytes can be reengineered as the human ones or the encapsulation procedures can be adapted on the basis of their specific erythrocyte biological features. Successful results, obtained both in vitro and in preclinical studies, have prompted several clinicians to start pilot clinical investigations in different conditions and some new companies to start the industrialization of selected loading technologies and to initiate clinical development programs. This short review summarizes the key features that, to the best of our knowledge, have been crucial to advance the products toward regulatory clinical approval making reengineering of erythrocytes a modality to treat patients with limited or absent therapeutic options.For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.