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November 14, 2002

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   Denine Hagen, 858-534-2920,


View of blood flow and oxygen delivery in the microvessels of a living animal. This technique for visualizing, measuring and analyzing blood flow in the microcirculation was developed by Marcos Intaglietta and enabled researchers to uncover important information about oxygen transport.

Research has led to “smart blood” product now in clinical trials

Marcos Intaglietta, Professor of Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering recently received the Biomedical Engineering Society’s 2002 International Award at the Society’s annual meeting in Houston, TX. Intaglietta is recognized worldwide for his pioneering discoveries about how oxygen is transported through the microcirculation to the body’s tissues. UCSD spin-out Sangart Inc. (a San Diego-based biopharmaceutical company), completed successful Phase I clinical trials in May 2002 on a blood substitute which is based on UCSD patents by Intaglietta and Dr. Robert Winslow.

The BME Award honors Intaglietta’s contributions to the advancement of biomedical engineering worldwide. Throughout his career, Intaglietta has welcomed a constant stream of international colleagues as visiting scientists in his laboratory. He has also worked with governments and health care institutions in Europe, Latin America and Asia to promote the development of alternatives to blood transfusions.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) also reports that Intaglietta’s seminal 1998 paper on oxygen transport is counted among the top 10 of the journal’s most frequently cited engineering publications (November 2002). He was the first to develop testing techniques that allow researchers to see, measure and analyze blood flow in the microscopic blood vessels over time in living animals.

Using these and other novel testing techniques, Intaglietta and Winslow (who was a UCSD professor of medicine before founding Sangart) uncovered surprising information about oxygen transport by blood substitutes. First, they found that oxygen transport is enhanced and blood substitutes have greater efficacy if blood viscosity is increased. Blood substitutes that are thicker and stickier rub against the blood vessel wall, creating friction which causes the vessel to dilate, improving blood flow and reducing the heart’s workload.
Their second important finding was that blood substitutes should deliver oxygen only to tissues that have an oxygen deficit, rather than releasing as much oxygen as possible. They found that a blood substitute could be designed to hold oxygen in reserve, only releasing oxygen to those tissues that need it.

This work by Intaglietta, an engineer, and Winslow, a hematologist, helped explain why many of the blood substitutes under development by biotechnology companies caused high blood pressure and other side effects in patients. Since most blood substitutes are highly diluted and carry oxygen in molecules dissolved in blood rather than in red blood cells, the body’s sensory system detects the excess oxygen and then constricts the blood vessels in an attempt to prevent too much oxygen from reaching the tissues.

Intaglietta and Winslow have collaborated for many years in developing a “smart” blood substitute that builds on this new information about the microcirculation. Their work has resulted in two products now under development by Sangart, which are aimed at providing a safe and cost-effective alternative to donated blood.

Marcos Intaglietta

Marcos Intaglietta joined UCSD in 1966 as a founding member of the university’s bioengineering program. He is the Chair of Sangart's Scientific Advisory Board, and serves on the company's board of directors. Intaglietta founded the International Institute for Microcirculation, and is an honorary member of the Italian, French, Indian, and Mexican societies for microcirculation. Intaglietta received the Malpighi Gold Medal Award from the European Society for Microcirculation (1994), the Whitaker Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society (1996), and the Landis Award (1999) from the Microcirculation Society.

Related Links:
Intaglietta Research Page:


Biomedical Engineering Society:

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Engineering Citations

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