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Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2004 Feb;3(2):152-9.

Oxygen therapeutics: can we tame haemoglobin?

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry, Division of Hematology, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, 8800 Rockville Pike, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA. alayash@cber.fda.gov


Chemically modified or genetically engineered haemoglobins (Hbs) developed as oxygen therapeutics (often termed 'blood substitutes') are designed to correct oxygen deficit due to ischaemia in a variety of clinical settings. These modifications are intended to stabilize Hb outside its natural environment--red blood cells--in a functional tetrameric and/or polymeric form. Uncontrolled haem-mediated oxidative reactions of cell-free Hb and its reactions with various oxidant/antioxidant and cell signalling systems have emerged as an important pathway of toxicity. Current protective strategies designed to produce safe Hb-based products are focused on controlling or suppressing the 'radical' nature of Hb while retaining its oxygen-carrying function.

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