A new blood substitute with broad life-saving potential is being
tested at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
(UMDNJ). The unique blood product is made with a patented chemical
modification process developed by Enzon, Inc, in Piscataway, NJ,
that disguises it from the body's immune system to prevent it
from being attacked as a foreign substance. Called polyethylene
glycol (PEG)-hemoglobin, the product combines the PEG chemical
with bovine hemoglobin. UMDNJ researchers believe the product
has great clinical potential, ranging from use as an emergency
blood supply to a treatment for cancer.
"PEG-hemoglobin is a potentially universal blood substitute
that requires no typing or cross-matching," said Dr. Richard
D. Huhn, Acting Director of the Clinical Research Center at the
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, and principal
investigator of the study. "It also has a longer shelf life
and may have greater oxygen-carrying capacity than human hemoglobin,
which is why cow's hemoglobin was chosen."
He added that the blood substitute eliminates the possibility
of acquiring a blood-borne human infection, such as HIV or viral
hepatitis, from a blood transfusion. "This safety factor
may eventually make PEG-hemoglobin an ideal blood substitute for
transfusions during trauma surgery or general surgery," he
Polyethylene glycol-hemoglobin also holds promise in cancer therapy.
In laboratory studies conducted in dogs with large, radiation-resistant
solid tumors, PEG-hemoglobin combined with radiation treatments
proved highly effective in killing or dramatically shrinking the
tumors, said Peter G. Tombros, President and Chief Executive Officer
"When the product was injected into dogs, it travelled to
the tumors where it increased the oxygen levels, making the tumors
more sensitive to radiation treatments," Mr. Tombros said.
"We are hopeful that the product will prove effective in
treating human cancers."
A phase I clinical trial of PEG-hemoglobin is now underway at
the medical school to determine its safety and tolerability. In
the study, volunteers are injected with PEG-hemoglobin once and
carefully monitored for 5 days at the medical school's Clinical
Research Center in New Brunswick. Volunteers are given follow-up
examinations weekly for 3 weeks to gauge their reactions to the
"It's very early in the study, but we have some encouraging
results," said Dr. Huhn. "The six persons tested so
far have had no adverse reactions attributable to the product."
The UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is seeking participants
for the clinical trial. All applicants must be healthy males between
the ages of 18 and 45 years. They will be carefully screened before
enrollment. Study subjects will be compensated for their participation.
For more information, call 908-418-8461