Coupling DNA Cages and Light Beams for Targeted Delivery of Smaller Doses of Drugs

Taking high doses of drugs can affect unintended organs or tissues and lead to toxic side effects. But, getting smaller doses of drugs to go exactly where you intend them inside the human body is a real difficult thing. Researchers have been working for a long time to solve this issue.

Often drugs are big molecules with different locations on their surfaces which allow them to bind with receptors possessing complementary locations, just like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle fitting together. This attachment with a cell allows the drugs to interact with it. The issue is that, multiple cells have identical receptors, leading to unintended cells picking up the drugs.

Scientists solved this issue by disguising the surface of the drug molecules by adding small chemical groups. However, such tiny alterations cannot disguise larger drug molecules.

In the current study, researchers enclosed the drug inside a cage to entirely hide it from the receptors. The technique is called DNA origami where a strand of DNA is developed by arranging its nucleic acids in the desired order. The temperature of the strands is then increased to a near boiling state, and then gradually cooled down. The strands fold and bend into a desired shape due to natural repulsion and attraction between various nucleic acids.

This way, the scientists create an open-ended DNA barrel inside which they put the drug. To prevent it from getting out, they leave small bits of DNA hanging unattached inside the cage, and then added more nucleic acids to act any little chains that hold the drug in place. Once the DNA cage reaches the target, a beam of light breaks the chain and lets the drug out.

They have explained their technique in a paper published on March 2016 in ACS Nanoletters.

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