The new discovery could also lead to more potent treatments for life threatening conditions such as cancer.
University of North Carolina researchers used technology known as PRINT (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) to produce very soft hydrogel particles that mimic the size, shape and flexibility of red blood cells.
The technology allows the particles to circulate in the body for extended periods of time, reports the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
However, researchers believe the findings are significant because red blood cells (RBCs) naturally deform in order to pass through microscopic pores in organs and narrow blood vessels, according to a North Carolina statement.
Over their 120-day lifespan, real cells become stiffer and are filtered out of circulation after being unable to pass through spleen pores.
Beyond moving closer to producing fully synthetic blood, the findings could affect approaches to treating cancer.
Cancer cells are softer than healthy cells, enabling them to lodge in different places in the body and spreading the disease.
Particles loaded with cancer-fighting medicines that can remain in circulation longer may open the door to more aggressive treatment approaches.
"Creating particles for extended circulation in the blood stream has been a significant challenge in the development of drug delivery systems from the beginning," said Joseph DeSimone, study's co-lead investigator.
DeSimone is the professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina.