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Synthetic Biology Technology

US researchers develop bio-inspired nanoscale drug delivery method.

Flower-like particle developed by WSU and PNNL (photo courtesy of PNNL).The flower-like particles loaded with therapeutic genes were able to make their way smoothly out of the predicted cellular trap, enter the heart of the cell, and release their drug there.

US scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Washington State University (WSU) researchers have developed a biologically-inspired nanomaterial that can effectively carry therapeutic genes directly into cells for the treatment of diseases such as cancer.

According to the US researchers, delivery of the therapy into the cells at nanoscale comes without causing toxic effects.

The work could someday lead to more effective therapies and diagnostics for cancer and other illnesses, the US researchers claimed.

The research was led by Yuehe Lin, professor in WSU (@wsu) School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and Chun-Long Chen, a senior scientist at the Department of Energy national laboratory. They published their results in the journal Small.

Researchers used a bio-inspired design that mimicked natures catalysts-enzymes. The flower-like particle the WSU and PNNL (@PNNLab) team developed is about 150 nanometres in size, or about one thousand time smaller than the width of a piece of paper.

It is made of sheets of peptoids (oligomers composed of N-substituted glycine monomer units that are sequence-specific heteropolymers), which are similar to natural peptides that make up proteins.

Yuehe LinThe peptoids make for a good drug delivery particle because theyre fairly easy to synthesise and, because they are similar to natural biological materials, work well in biological systems.

The researchers said that they added fluorescent probes in their peptoid nanoflowers, so they could trace them as they made their way through cells, and they added the element fluorine, which helped the nanoflowers more easily escape from tricky cellular traps that often impede drug delivery.

The flower-like particles loaded with therapeutic genes were able to make their way smoothly out of the predicted cellular trap, enter the heart of the cell, and release their drug there.

The nanoflowers successfully and rapidly escaped (the cell trap) and exhibited minimal cytotoxicity, said Lin.

After their initial testing with model drug molecules, the researchers hope to conduct further studies using real medicines.

This paves a new way for us to develop nanocargoes that can efficiently deliver drug molecules into the cell and offers new opportunities for targeted gene therapies, Lin added.

The WSU and PNNL team have filed a patent application for the new technology, and they are seeking industrial partners for further development. The work was funded by the WSU start-up funds and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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