New Jersey Researchers Testing Unique Blood Substitute

June 1, 1995

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

A new blood substitute with broad life-saving potential is beingtested at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey(UMDNJ). The unique blood product is made with a patented chemicalmodification process developed by Enzon, Inc, in Piscataway, NJ,that disguises it from the body's immune system to prevent itfrom being attacked as a foreign substance. Called polyethyleneglycol (PEG)-hemoglobin, the product combines the PEG chemicalwith bovine hemoglobin. UMDNJ researchers believe the producthas great clinical potential, ranging from use as an emergencyblood supply to a treatment for cancer.

"PEG-hemoglobin is a potentially universal blood substitutethat requires no typing or cross-matching," said Dr. RichardD. Huhn, Acting Director of the Clinical Research Center at theUMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, and principalinvestigator of the study. "It also has a longer shelf lifeand 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 possibilityof acquiring a blood-borne human infection, such as HIV or viralhepatitis, from a blood transfusion. "This safety factormay eventually make PEG-hemoglobin an ideal blood substitute fortransfusions during trauma surgery or general surgery," hesaid.

Polyethylene glycol-hemoglobin also holds promise in cancer therapy.In laboratory studies conducted in dogs with large, radiation-resistantsolid tumors, PEG-hemoglobin combined with radiation treatmentsproved highly effective in killing or dramatically shrinking thetumors, said Peter G. Tombros, President and Chief Executive Officerof Enzon.

"When the product was injected into dogs, it travelled tothe tumors where it increased the oxygen levels, making the tumorsmore sensitive to radiation treatments," Mr. Tombros said."We are hopeful that the product will prove effective intreating human cancers."

A phase I clinical trial of PEG-hemoglobin is now underway atthe medical school to determine its safety and tolerability. Inthe study, volunteers are injected with PEG-hemoglobin once andcarefully monitored for 5 days at the medical school's ClinicalResearch Center in New Brunswick. Volunteers are given follow-upexaminations weekly for 3 weeks to gauge their reactions to theproduct.

"It's very early in the study, but we have some encouragingresults," said Dr. Huhn. "The six persons tested sofar have had no adverse reactions attributable to the product."

The UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is seeking participantsfor the clinical trial. All applicants must be healthy males betweenthe ages of 18 and 45 years. They will be carefully screened beforeenrollment. Study subjects will be compensated for their participation.For more information, call 908-418-8461