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Image of the Day: Breathe In

Inhalable particles carrying mRNA make mouse lungs glow.

Jan 14, 2019
Carolyn Wilke

ABOVE: These cultured human lung epithelial cells have taken up particles (yellow) that carry mRNA encoding green fluorescent protein.
ASHA PATEL

Researchers have engineered inhalable particles, just 150 nanometers in size, that can carry messenger RNA mixed with a biodegradable polymer. To test if this material could travel to the lungs of mice, they suspended the particles in a liquid, which the mice inhaled as a mist. 

The messenger RNA (mRNA) carried instructions for making a bioluminescent protein. A day after the mice breathed the particles in, the researchers saw the telltale glow. For humans, an aerosol could someday be engineered that could carry therapeutic mRNA to help treat conditions such as cystic fibrosis.  

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