University at Buffalo (UB) scientists has developed a nanoparticle that can silence a gene that triggers drug addiction.
Boffins in UB's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and UB's Department of Medicine have developed a stable nanoparticle that delivers short RNA molecules in the brain to "silence" or turn off a gene that plays a critical role in many kinds of drug addiction.
"These findings mean that in the future, we might be able to add a powerful pharmaceutical agent to the current arsenal of weapons in order to more effectively fight a whole range of substance addictions," said Paras N. Prasad, Ph.D.
The new nanotechnology method may also be applicable to treating Parkinson's disease, cancer and a range of other neurologic and psychiatric disorders, which require certain drugs to be delivered to the brain.
Researchers have also claimed that this highly translational research strongly suggests that the nanoparticles would be applicable to other diseases and will soon study their use in treating AIDS dementia, prostate cancer and asthma.
"The findings of this study tell us that these nanoparticles are both a safe and very efficient way of delivering to a variety of tissues highly sophisticated new drugs that turn off abnormal genes," said Stanley A. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D., and a co-author on the study.
In the study, the researchers have described the development of an innovative way to silence DARPP-32, a brain protein, understood to be a central "trigger" for the cascade of signals that occurs in drug addiction.
DARPP-32 is a protein in the brain that facilitates addictive behaviors.
Silencing of the DARPP-32 gene with certain kinds of ribonucleic acid (RNA), called short interfering RNA (siRNA), can inhibit production of this protein and thus, could help prevent drug addiction.
"When you silence this gene, the physical craving for the drug should be reduced," said Adela C. Boniou, Ph.D., a co-author on the study.
One downside in the method has been to find a way to safely and efficiently deliver the siRNA, which is not stable on its own.
The researchers successfully combined the siRNA molecules with gold nanoparticles shaped like rods, called nanorods, marking the first time that siRNA molecules have been used with gold nanorods.
"What is unique here is that we have applied nanotechnology to therapeutic concepts directed at silencing a gene in the brain, using RNA techniques," said Supriya D. Mahajan, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the UB Department of Medicine in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The gold nanorods not only are biocompatible, but are rod-shaped rather than spherical, thus allowing for more siRNA molecules to be loaded on to their surface. Thus, their stability is further increased and allows for better penetration into cells.
"We have demonstrated that we can use these gold nanorods to stabilize the siRNA molecules, take them across the blood-brain barrier and silence the gene. The nanorods nicely address all three of these requirements," said Indrajit Roy, Ph.D., deputy director for biophotonics at the institute.
The in vitro findings of the study were recently published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.