Scientists are reporting an advance toward treating disease with minute capsules containing not drugs — but the DNA and other biological machinery for making the drug. In an article in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, they describe engineering micro- and nano-sized capsules that contain the genetically coded instructions, plus the read-out gear and assembly line for protein synthesis that can be switched on with an external signal.
Daniel Anderson’s group from M.I.T., author of the article (http://video.mit.edu/watch/inside-the-lab-daniel-g-anderson-phd-8385/), developed an artificial, remotely activated nanoparticle system containing DNA and the other “parts” necessary to make proteins, which are the workhorses of the human cell and are often used as drugs. They describe the nanoscale production units, which are tiny spheres encapsulating protein-making machinery like that found in living cells. The resulting nanoparticles produced active proteins on demand when the researchers shined a laser light on them. The nanoparticles even worked when they were injected into mice, which are stand-ins for humans in the laboratory, producing proteins when a laser was shone onto the animals. This innovation “may find utility in the localized delivery of therapeutics,” say the researchers.