Penn protein may open path to artificial blood

Scientists at Penn have built a protein from scratch that can carry oxygen, a big step toward creating artificial blood. And in a key breakthrough, the proteins they have built are waterproof, which prevents cellular damage.

"I think it's a notable achievement in protein design," Roman Boulatov, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tells MIT Technology Review. "They show it's possible to engineer a specific reactivity by starting from scratch. It gives you much more control over what you can change."

"There's a problem working with natural proteins in that they're complex and fragile," says Christopher Moser, coauthor of the study. "We'd like to learn how to make functional proteins that are completely unrelated to natural proteins: that will allow us to continue to build more features."

Scientists have been in hot pursuit of a safe supply of artificial blood for years. But programs that have been in development have been plagued by safety problems.

- read the report from MIT Technology Review

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