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DNA Nanotechnology for Cancer Therapy

27 March 2018
Giulio Prisco

Cancer Therapy

In recent bioscience and medical news, the biological computing research results released by the University of Delaware (see below) are worth highlighting. The scientists have repurposed the DNA code to design logic-gated DNA circuits that act on proteins, and could lead to new cancer therapies and other drugs.

Future developments could allow bioengineers to “plug and play” programmed DNA into a variety of cells to address a variety of diseases, said study author Wilfred Chen. “Previous work has shown how powerful DNA nanotechnology might possibly be, and we know how powerful proteins are within cells,” said researcher Rebecca P. Chen. “We managed to link those two together.”

In less futuristic but more practical news, scientists at University of Eastern Finland have found that omega-6 fatty acids, and in particular linoleic acid, can protect against premature death and cardiovascular diseases. The main dietary sources of linoleic acid are vegetable oils, plant-based spreads, nuts and seeds.

Programming DNA-logic devices deliver cancer drugs. Scientists at University of Delaware have developed technology to program strands of DNA into switches that turn proteins on and off. The researchers tested the DNA-logic devices on E. coli bacteria and human cells. A study published in Nature Chemistry shows that target proteins organized, assembled, and disassembled in accordance with the programming. The DNA-logic devices were used to activate a non-toxic cancer prodrug, which becomes therapeutically active when metabolized. According to the scientists, the research results could lead to new cancer therapies.

Implantable gel with cancer immunotherapy agent could prevent cancer spread after surgery. Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found indications that it may be possible to prevent tumors from recurring and to eradicate metastatic growths by implanting a gel containing immunotherapy during surgical removal of a tumor. The research results, published in Science Translational Medicine, suggest that gradual release of immunotherapy at the site of surgery prevents tumors from returning and eliminates cancer spread.

Anti-cancer protein levels monitor liver cancer growth. Researchers at University of Basel and collaborating labs have discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. A research report published in Nature indicates that LHPP can serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer, and shows that the loss of LHPP promotes tumor growth and reduces the chance of survival of cancer patients.

Real-time data acquisition from millions of nerve cells. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have found a way to recode neural signals into a format that computer processors can use instantly. A research paper published in Neuroinformatics describes a method able to simultaneously collect data from over one million nerve cells, analyze the information, and provide feedback within a few milliseconds. The method, which enables simultaneous communication in real time with millions of nerve cells,  could find clinical applications and use in implantable Brain Machine Interfaces.

Implantable sensors relay health monitoring data to a smartphone. Researchers at biotechnology company Profusa are developing tiny biosensors composed of a tissue-like hydrogel, similar to a soft contact lens, that can be placed under the skin with a single injection and operate within the body. The hydrogel is linked to light-emitting fluorescent molecules that continuously signal in proportion to the concentration of a body chemical, such as oxygen, glucose, or other biomolecules of interest. Data is sent to a smartphone for an encrypted personal record and historical tracking, and can be shared securely with healthcare providers.The researchers are presenting their results today at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Better understanding the cellular mechanisms of ALS. Neuroscientists at University of Montreal and collaborating labs have discovered a basic molecular mechanism at work in Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The scientists investigated what happens to various molecules when TDP-43, a protein that binds the 'messengers' in the cell known collectively as RNA and that is central to ALS pathology, is removed from the nucleus. The research results, published in Brain, unveiled a broad spectrum of RNA metabolism mis-regulation, which could be targeted by new therapies.

Synthetic polymers selectively kill cancer cells. Scientists at IBM Research Almaden, Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, and Genome Institute of Singapore, have developed synthetic polymers designed to selectively kill cancer cells, while ignoring healthy cells. A study published in Journal of the American Chemical Society shows that, in testing, cancer cells were unable to develop resistance to this new class of macromolecules. The researchers are persuaded that the new synthetic polymers could be effective against cancer cells that are resistant to other drugs.

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