Hemoglobin vesicles (HbVs) in which human hemoglobin is encapsulated in a phospholipid bilayer membrane (liposome) have been developed as artificial red blood cells. Although the effectiveness of HbVs, including their physicochemical characteristics and pharmacological effects, has been reported, data on the pharmacokinetic properties of HbVs are limited. Previously, we developed two kinds of radiolabeled HbV, 125 I-HbV and 3 H-HbV, in which the internal hemoglobin and lipid membranes were labeled with 125 I and 3 H, respectively. Using these isotope-labeled HbVs, we clarified the detailed pharmacokinetic properties of HbVs in healthy animals and experimental animal disease models of hemorrhagic shock, chronic cirrhosis, and hyperlipidemia. This review describes our previous results regarding the pharmacokinetic properties of HbVs, and we discuss the safety and usefulness of HbVs from the viewpoint of their pharmacokinetic characteristics. Furthermore, we have modified HbVs by employing them as a carbon monoxide (CO) carrier because the hemoglobin inside HbVs reversibly binds to CO, resulting in CO-bound HbVs (CO-HbVs). Here we report the potential of CO-HbVs for the treatment of intractable inflammatory disorders based on their therapeutic efficiency in experimental animal models.
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