Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed an innovative method to deliver therapeutic molecules into cells. The method employs gold nanoparticles that are electrically activated, leading them to oscillate and bore holes in the outer membranes of cells and allowing key molecules, such as RNA, DNA, and proteins, to gain entry. Unlike other methods, the gold nanoparticles are not joined to their biological cargo, an improvement that can increase therapeutic potency and effectiveness.
The team, headed by Hadi Shafiee, PhD, assistant professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, along with first author Mohamed Shehata Draz, PhD, assessed the ability of the technique to deliver a DNA vaccine, particularly against the hepatitis C virus (HCV), into mice. The researchers found that it elicited a strong immune response, reflected by high levels of anti-HCV antibodies and immune cells that emit specific inflammatory hormones. More importantly, Shafiee and his collaborators found no signs of toxicity in the mice all through the study period, which lasted around 3 months.
Our concept is unique. Both the electric field parameters and the nanoparticle properties can be augmented to perform other important functions, such as precisely removing cells or blood clots.
Mohamed Shehata Draz, first author
Currently, there is growing interest in DNA vaccines. First, these DNA vaccines offer a potential alternative to traditional vaccines, which are sometimes made using weakened microbes, either specific or whole parts. These foreign substances can cause risks to patients and they could potentially be reduced if DNA, which is now readily synthesized in the laboratory, is used in their place. DNA vaccines also show potential as a tool for curbing cancer growth.
Even though Shafiee, Draz, and their collaborators began by applying their innovative nanoparticle method to DNA vaccines, they highlight its wide-ranging applications.
One of the really exciting aspects of this new method is that it enables drug delivery into tissues or cells in a universal way. We are eager to explore its use for other important biological molecules, including RNA.
Hadi Shafiee, assistant professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital