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DNA nanorobots find and tag cellular targets

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Posted August 8, 2013
This graphic shows a molecular robot (automaton) in action. To tag cells (grey circle) that display the Mi, Mj, and Mk receptors, five different components of a molecular robot are deployed. Each of the first three components consists of DNA and an antibody; one antibody binds to each receptor, bringing its DNA (represented by the colored lines) close together on the cell. The fourth DNA component, represented by the single red line, then initiates a chain reaction by pulling the red DNA strand away from the first antibody. That causes the blue DNA strand to change position, followed by the green DNA strand. In the final step, the last antibody pulls a fluorescent DNA strand (labeled F) from the fifth component, completing the action of the robot. Credit: Milan Stojanovic, Ph.D./Columbia University Medical Center

This graphic shows a molecular robot (automaton) in action. To tag cells (grey circle) that display the Mi, Mj, and Mk receptors, five different components of a molecular robot are deployed. Each of the first three components consists of DNA and an antibody; one antibody binds to each receptor, bringing its DNA (represented by the colored lines) close together on the cell. The fourth DNA component, represented by the single red line, then initiates a chain reaction by pulling the red DNA strand away from the first antibody. That causes the blue DNA strand to change position, followed by the green DNA strand. In the final step, the last antibody pulls a fluorescent DNA strand (labeled F) from the fifth component, completing the action of the robot. Credit: Milan Stojanovic, Ph.D./Columbia University Medical Center

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, working with their collaborators at the Hospital for Special Surgery, have created a fleet of molecular “robots” that can home in on specific human cells and mark them for drug therapy or destruction.

The nanorobots—a collection of DNA molecules, some attached to antibodies —were designed to seek a specific set of human blood cells and attach a fluorescent tag to the cell surfaces. Details of the system were published July 28, 2013, in the online edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

“This opens up the possibility of using such molecules to target, treat, or kill specific cells without affecting similar healthy cells,” said the study’s senior investigator, Milan Stojanovic, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of biomedical engineering at Columbia University Medical Center. “In our experiment, we tagged the cells with a fluorescent marker; but we could replace that with a drug or with a toxin to kill the cell.”

Though other DNA nanorobots have been designed to deliver drugs to cells, the advantage of Stojanovic’s fleet is its ability to distinguish cell populations that do not share a single distinctive feature.

Cells, including cancer cells, rarely possess a single, exclusive feature that sets them apart from all other cells. This makes it difficult to design drugs without side effects. Drugs can be designed to target cancer cells with a specific receptor, but healthy cells with the same receptor will also be targeted.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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