Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Bionic Blood Cells

PostedJuly 20, 2014

Download File (mp3)

Anchor Lead: Those responding to an Ebola outbreak in Africa…or a terrorist anthrax attack in D-C…might one day be protected by specially engineered red blood cells.

Randy Atkins: The basic function of red blood cells is to deliver oxygen throughout our body, and remove carbon dioxide. But Harvey Lodish, an MIT bioengineer, is equipping them with molecules that hunt down microbes, toxins, and disease agents like cholesterol.

Harvey Lodish: One of the beauties of red cells is that they live in our body for four months, so this would provide a long-term way of introducing a molecule into the body.

Randy Atkins: Lodish is engineering red cells to make a protein that protrudes from their surface bind such an attack molecule…hoping, from that perch, it can seek and destroy targets while circulating throughout the body.

Harvey Lodish: We don’t damage those cells in the process.

Randy Atkins: So the engineered cells, which have worked in animals, can multi-task…still delivering oxygen, but also fighting off threats. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.