Scientists have developed a new class of drugs called antisense drugs, which can block the genes associated with production of harmful proteins. Until now, it has been difficult for scientists to find a way by which special cancer drugs can be prevented from breaking down before they reach the target genes.
But now, this problem can be overcome by combining the drugs with small gold particles. This novel finding has been the result of the sustained efforts of researchers at the Northwestern University.
Cancer and a spectrum of other disorders arise as a result of a subtle alteration in the genetic material (mutation). Mutation in a gene results in excessive production of copies of certain proteins that can pave way for cancer and other disorders.
The conventional drugs target these excess or harmful proteins while the new generation drugs (antisense drugs) target the genetic material itself, inhibiting production of the harmful protein. Although this new form of therapy is in a preliminary stage, it promises to be more effective than all forms of existing drug treatment.
When extremely small gold particles (a fraction of the width of the human hair) are attached to multiple strands of antisense DNA, it resulted in a stable delivery of these drugs to the required site of action. Less toxicity and ready absorption of these drugs into cells offer a unique advantage of this particular form of therapy.
'In the future, this exciting new class of antisense material could be used for the treatment of cancer and other diseases that have a genetic basis. Once inside cells, the DNA modified nanoparticles act as sponges that bind to their targets and prevent them from being converted to proteins,' said Chad Mirkin, lead author of the study.
'Powerful new cancer drugs will only live up to their potential if they can be efficiently delivered to cancer cells. This study accomplishes this by combining two exciting and relatively new technologies - antisense drugs and nanotechnology. In upcoming years, we are likely to see nanotechnology play a greater role in detecting and treating cancers,' said Ed Yong of the Cancer Research, UK.