Therapeutic Cells via Functional Modification: Influence of Molecular Properties of Polymer Grafts on In Vivo Circulation, Clearance, Immunogenicity, and Antigen Protection

Modulation of cell surface properties via functional modification is of great interest in cell-based therapies, drug delivery, and in transfusion. We study the in vivo circulation, immuogenicity, and mechanism of clearance of hyperbranched polyglycerol (HPG)-modified red blood cells (RBCs) as a function of molecular properties of HPGs. The circulation half-life of modified cells can be modulated by controlling the polymer graft concentration on RBCs; low graft concentrations (0.25 and 0.5 mM) showed normal circulation as that of control RBCs. Molecular weight of HPG did not affect the circulation of modified RBCs. HPG grafting on RBCs reduced CD47 self-protein accessibility in a graft concentration-dependent fashion. HPG-grafted RBCs are not immunogenic, as is evident from their similar circulation profile upon repeated administration in mice and monitoring over 100 days. Histological examination of the spleen, liver, and kidneys of the mice injected with modified RBCs revealed distinct differences, such as elevated iron deposits and an increase in the number of CD45 expressing cells at high graft concentration of HPGs (1.5 mM); no changes were seen at low graft concentration. The absence of iron deposits in the white pulp region of the spleen and its presence in the red pulp region indicates that the clearance of functional RBCs occurs in the venous sinuses mechanical filtering system, similar to the clearance of unmodified senescent RBCs. HPG modification at grafting concentrations that yield long circulation in mice produced camouflage of a large number of minor blood group antigens on human RBCs, demonstrating its utility in chronic transfusion. The normal circulation, nonimmunogenic nature, and the potential to modulate the circulation time of modified cells without toxicity make this HPG-based cell surface modification approach attractive for drug delivery and other cell-based therapies.