Dr. Spiess to collaborate with chemical engineering to develop all-natural oxygen-carrying particle

Bruce Spiess, MD, FAHA
Bruce Spiess, MD, FAHA

With funding from the Department of Defense (DoD), Bruce Spiess, M.D., FAHA, is collaborating with a colleague in the Department of Chemical Engineering to develop an all-natural, cost-effective, and pathogen-free oxygen-carrying particle.

Spiess, a professor of anesthesiology and associate chair for research, is a Co-PI on the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMP)/Discovery Award with Whitney L. Stoppel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Hemoglobin, which is inside red blood cells, carries oxygen in the blood. After a traumatic injury or in patients with other medical complications, the blood may not be able to adequately deliver oxygen to tissues throughout the body. In the hospital, a patient can get a blood transfusion; however, there are situations that may prevent a patient from receiving a blood transfusion (e.g., medical complications, religious reasons) or other supply chain complications that lead to shortages in pathogen- or virus- free blood donations.

With this grant, Spiess and Stoppel will investigate how silk and salmon hemoglobin can be combined to improve the ability of all-natural nanoparticles to deliver oxygen at clinically relevant rates.

They are hoping to develop a particle that does not require refrigeration so that it is easily adaptable to a broad range of places and patients.

Silk fibroin is a natural protein found in the cocoons of silkworms. The body can degrade it into simple protein building blocks without any extra efforts or adverse side effects. Silk fibroin nanoparticles make good carriers for bioactive molecules, which has been shown by many others in the field. However, without the addition of a hemoglobin molecule or other artificial oxygen carrier, they do not aid in oxygen delivery. Spiess and Stoppel plan to incorporate hemoglobin from fish into the silk particles, a novel approach. Fish use hemoglobin to help them control their buoyancy in addition to keeping their bodies alive.

  • With reporting by the Department of Chemical Engineering