Scientists are aware that cancers are getting very resistant to drugs just like we have drug-resistant bacteria known as superbugs. They have now devised a way for drugs to get delivered into cancer cells after beating the defense mechanisms of the drug-resistant cells – deceiving cancer cells into thinking the drugs are foods which must be consumed, and they getting destroyed after consuming the cloaked drugs.
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In a study published in the journal Small, the researchers from The Ohio State University carried out several lab tests that showed leukemia cells which were hitherto resistant to drugs, absorbed the drugs and died out because the drug was hidden in a capsule made of folded DNA – a packaging technique known as “DNA origami”.
This trial has worked perfectly in lab mice and the researchers think it will be applied to humans within a few years from now.
“Cancer cells have novel ways of resisting drugs, like these pumps, and the exciting part of packaging the drug this way is that we can circumvent those defenses so that the drug accumulates in the cancer cell and causes it to die,” said John Byrd, a professor of internal medicine and director of the Division of Hematology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“Potentially, we can also tailor these structures to make them deliver drugs selectively to cancer cells and not to other parts of the body where they can cause side effects,” he added.
And Carlos Castro, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State and director of the Laboratory for Nanoengineering and Biodesign revealed that the DNA origami nanostructures is not only great for effective drug delivery to hitherto drug-resistant cells, but they open the way to study new drugs delivery. “For instance, we can vary the shape or mechanical stiffness of a structure very precisely and see how that affects entry into cells,” he said.
The lab tests focused on studying acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that had become resistant to the drug daunorubicin. In the rejection process, the AML cancer cells have come to identify molecules of daunorubicin and expel the drugs via openings in the cell wall, making the drug ineffective.
But with the new method of cloaking the drug in DNA origami, postdoctoral researcher Christopher Lucas explained that the technology maximizes the surface area available to carry the drug into AML cells.
“The way daunorubicin works is it tucks into the cancer cell’s DNA and prevents it from replicating. So we designed a capsule structure that would have lots of accessible DNA base-pairs for it to tuck into. When the capsule breaks down, the drug molecules are freed to flood the cell,” he said.
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This research project was funded by the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the National Cancer Institute, the D. Warren Brown Foundation, Four Winds Foundation and the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation.