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Protein therapies are typically more potent and selective than small molecules, but they can also be quickly degraded by enzymes or cleared from the blood by the kidneys, limiting their clinical use. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have engineered red blood cells (RBCs) as carriers that release therapeutic proteins only when illuminated with light.

The scientists embedded a peptide, melittin, extracted from the European honey bee sting, into the RBCs’ cell membranes. This peptide normally causes the RBCs to rupture, but the scientists modified it so that the peptide would only cause the lysis when illuminated with a particular wavelength of light.

The scientists then loaded the peptide-engineered RBCs with thrombin, a blood-clotting enzyme, and injected them into mice. When the mice were exposed to the light, only a portion of the engineered RBCs released peptides uk

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