Machine Design

Nanospheres could treat bioterror victims

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have developed a method of ridding blood of toxins from chemical, biological, and radiological attack.

Chemists mix a variety of polyethylene glycol coatings for injectable nanospheres. The coatings prevent white blood cells in the blood from attacking the nanospheres.

Their technique uses nanospheres, which measure between 100 and 5,000 nm, injected into a victim's bloodstream. The spheres are too large to be filtered from the blood by the kidneys yet small enough to pass through small blood vessels. A polyethylene glycol coating prevents white blood cells from destroying them. The spheres contain a magnetic iron compound and proteins are attached to the sphere's surface that bind with specific toxins. As the spheres circulate through the bloodstream, they meet and bond with the targeted toxins.

The patient is hooked to a dual-channel shunt, similar to the set-up used for blood transfusions Blood pulled from the body goes through a magnetic separator. The separator uses a strong magnet to immobilize the iron-containing spheres and all the toxins clinging to it. Clean blood then returns to the patient.

The method is also being viewed as a way to get hard-to-deliver oil and water-based drugs, such as genes and acute toxins, to specific cells and tissues. The surface of the nanospheres would, in these cases, have receptors for targeted cells or tissues, or rely on magnetic delivery.

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