Cage-Like DNA Nanostructures Used For Small-Molecule Drug Delivery

All genetic information in every biological species is encoded in deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Image Credit:

DNA strands, the building blocks of life, have now been used to create nanostructures that could help revolutionise drug delivery.

The minute structures act as cages to small-molecule drugs, which can be released in the presence of certain environments, such as those created by diseased cells.

Thomas Edwardson, co-author of a new paper on the research published in Nature Chemistry, explains how this could work:

"Many diseased cells, such as cancer cells, overexpress certain genes. In a future application, one can imagine a DNA cube that carries drug cargo to the diseased cell environment, which will trigger the release of the drug."

The McGill University research team, who had previously been involved in gold nanoparticles research for similar applications, create the cages using short strands of DNA. Sticky cores within the structures are then created to help hold the drugs, using a ‘handshake’ interaction between lipids. The video below, courtesy of Hanadi Sleiman/McGill University, show the creation process.

Using DNA structures, rather than synthetic materials,to carry drugs has the following advantages:

  • Biodegradable
  • Can be built very precisely
  • Properties such as size and shape can be easily manipulated.

The new research may also have implications outside of drug delivery, as explained by the leader of the research team, Hanadi Sleiman:

"This research is important for drug delivery, but also for fundamental structural biology and nanotechnology. It opens up a range of new possibilities for designing DNA-based nanomaterials."

Original source: McGill University


G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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