DNA ‘cages’ hope for drug delivery
Sunday 1st September 2013, 6:11PM BST.
Tiny “cages” of DNA can be used to deliver drugs to diseased cells, new research has shown.
The discovery opens up new avenues for highly-precise targeted treatments.
Scientists are conducting cell and animal studies to see if the DNA “smart bombs” can be used to tackle leukaemia and prostate cancer.
Lead scientist Professor Hanadi Sleiman, from McGill University in Canada, said: “This research is important for drug delivery, but also for fundamental structural biology and nanotechnology.”
DNA carries all the genetic information of living organisms, but can also be used to build microscopic structures.
Prof Sleiman’s team first created cubes from short strands of DNA, then modified them with fatty lipid molecules.
The lipids created a sticky “core” within the cube that could hold cargo such as a drug.
Scientists from the same laboratory have previously shown that gold nanoparticles can be loaded and released from DNA tubes.
The “cages” can trap much smaller particles than gold, making them suitable for medical applications.
A major advantage is that they can be designed to release drugs in the presence of a specific genetic code sequence.
Co-author Thomas Edwardson, also from McGill University, said: “Many diseased cells, such as cancer cells, over-express certain genes.
“In a future application, one can imagine a DNA cube that carries drug cargo to the diseased cell environment, which will trigger the release of the drug.”
The research is published in the latest edition of the journal Nature Chemistry.