Some Assembly Required

Researchers construct nanoscale DNA cages that could eventually be used to deliver drugs to target tissues.

By | September 3, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, CHRISTOPH BOCKChemists from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, have devised a technique for assembling nanoscale structures—or “cages”—that encapsulate small molecules, according to a report published in Nature Chemistry this week (September 1). The researchers said that these cages, which release their contents upon binding complementary DNA, could be useful for drug-delivery applications down the line.

The authors also noted that these DNA cages could be handy research tools, as they con?ne their contents in hydrophobic environments composed of small, lipid-like chains. They added that the assembly scheme can be used to form a variety of structures. With eight potential biding sites on each cage, as many as 26 different isomers could be developed.

“This research is important for drug delivery, but also for fundamental structural biology and nanotechnology,” lead author Hanadi Sleiman said in a press release. “It opens up a range of new possibilities for designing DNA-based nanomaterials.”

Study coauthor Thomas Edwardson added that these cages can be “easily tuned” to suit a variety of purposes. “In a future application, one can imagine a DNA cube that carries drug cargo to the diseased cell environment, which will trigger the release of the drug,” he said in the release.

Still, Sleiman noted that much work remains to be done. To date, she said, the work has only been carried out in test tubes. “To be a powerful drug delivery system, you need the release to happen inside or on the cell,” Sleiman told Wired. “That’s going to be the next hurdle.”

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