Although chemotherapies have been highly useful as targeted treatments for cancer, researchers have discovered some new methods to treat cancer and other disorders.
Scientists at the University of Missouri demonstrated that specialized nucleic acid-based nanostructures could be used to target cancer cells while bypassing normal cells.
Using a molecular process that mimics a highly-accelerated form of natural evolution, the team of researchers sought out nucleic acid ligands or aptamers. Because of their three-dimensional structures, aptamers can be trained to bind to certain target molecules with high affinity and selectivity. When the target is a cancer-associated receptor, these aptamers can be used as molecular tools to recognise specifically diseased cells.
The team then 'loaded' the aptamers with large, fluorescent RNAs generating nucleic-acid nanostructures. Upon incubation with target cancer and non-target cells, only malignant cells were illuminated by the nanostructure showing that the structures had correctly bonded with their intended targets.
"Next steps for our studies are to prove that these aptamers can be loaded with therapeutic molecules that specifically target and treat cancer cells leaving normal tissues untouched. While aptamers have been proven in the past as tools to deliver small drugs, our method paves the way to deliver even larger and potentially more powerful RNA-based drugs possibly creating that 'magic bullet' that Erhlich described in the last century," said researcher David Porciani.
The findings, which highlighted the power of translational precision medicine, appeared in the Journal of Nature Communications.