Researchers move closer to developing nanorobot for transporting drugs in the body December 02 2013

The researchers are confident that the nanorobot will eventually be used to transfer medications in the body to enable a targeted effect on diseased cells.

 

Researchers move closer to developing nanorobot for transporting drugs in the body

 

Science Recorder | Jonathan Marker | Monday, December 02, 2013
According to a December 2 news release from Aarhus University, researchers from the academic institution – in collaboration with those in Italy and the United States – have reached a key milestone in the quest to build the first nanorobot – a term used to describe molecules with a unique property that enables them to be programmed to execute a specific task – of DNA molecules that can envelop and release active biomolecules.

The researchers are confident that the nanorobot – also known as a DNA nanocage – will eventually be used to transfer medications in the body to enable a targeted effect on diseased cells.

The researchers designed eight distinctive DNA molecules from the body’s own natural molecules using DNA self-assembly.  When these molecules are mixed together, they collect into a usable form called a nanocage.

The nanocage has four functional elements that change themselves in response to changes in the ambient temperature.  These transformations will either close or open the nanocage.  Via exploitation of the temperature changes in the surroundings, the researchers trapped an active enzyme called horseradish peroxidase (HRP) in the nanocage.  They used HRP as a model as its activity is straightforward to trace.

This is made possible as the nanocage’s outer lattice has openings with a smaller diameter than the central spherical cavity.  This structure makes it possible to envelop enzymes or other molecules that are larger than the openings in the lattice, but smaller than the central cavity.

The complete research findings appear in the journal ACS Nano, in which the researchers explain how they can use temperature variations to open the nanocage and permit HRP to be enveloped before it closes again.  In addition, the researchers explain that HRP retains its enzyme activity inside the nanocage and transforms substrate molecules that are small enough to penetrate the nanocage to products inside.

The enveloping of HRP in the nanocage is reversible, in such a way that the nanocage is capable of releasing the HRP once more in reaction to temperature changes.  The researchers also show that the DNA nanocage and its enzyme load can be taken up by cells in culture.

The concept heralds a novel means for targeted drug delivery, as a way of transporting medicine that can target diseased cells in the body to attain a more rapid and more favorable effect.

The research occurred at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre (iNANO), Aarhus University, in collaboration with researchers from Duke University and the University of Rome.

 

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