Selective Organ Therapy Possible with DNA “Barcode” Testing

Using tiny snippets of DNA as “barcodes,” researchers have created a new way of rapidly screening the ability of nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic genes selectively to specific organs in the body. This technique has the ability to accelerate the development and use of gene therapies for killers like heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s.

Background on Nanoparticles

For 20 years, scientists have been developing nanoparticles from a range of materials and compounds. Unfortunately, the development of nanoparticle carriers is slowing because they have to be tested in cell culture before a small number of nanoparticles can be tested in animals. There are millions of combinations so identifying the optimal nanoparticle for each organ is hugely inefficient.

New Technique for Nanoparticle Testing

Using DNA strands only 58 nucleotides long, researchers from the University of Florida, Georgia Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed the new technique that skips the cell culture testing completely, allowing for hundreds of different types of nanoparticles to be tested simultaneously in just a few animals.

Researchers insert a snippet of DNA that is assigned to each type of nanoparticle. The nanoparticles are injected into mice, whose organs are examined for the barcodes. Scientists use this technique to sequence the genome so multiple nanoparticles can be tested at once — each identified by its unique barcode.

The Future of Nanoparticle Testing

Once favorable nanoparticles are identified, they will good through additional testing to verify their ability to deliver therapeutics. This will not only create a speedier test, but require fewer animals to test on. However, to avoid the possibility of nanoparticles merging, only those structures stable in aqueous environments can be tested and only nontoxic nanoparticles can be screened.

Though there are pros and cons, the world is this much closer to having possible therapy techniques for a variety and diseases.

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