Dendrimer complex docking on cellular folate receptors. Image: Michigan Center for Biologic Nanotechnology
University of Michigan researchers have developed a faster, more efficient way to produce a wide variety of nanoparticle drug delivery systems, using DNA molecules to bind the particles together.
Nanometer-scaled dendrimers can be assembled in many configurations by using attached lengths of single-stranded DNA molecules, which naturally bind to other DNA strands in a highly specific fashion. "With this approach, you can target a wide variety of molecules---drugs, contrast agents---to almost any cell," said Dr. James R. Baker Jr., the Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Nanotechnology and director of the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology at U-M. Nanoparticle complexes can be specifically targeted to cancer cells and are small enough to enter a diseased cell, either killing it from within or sending out a signal to identify it. But making the particles is notoriously difficult and time-consuming.
The nanoparticle system used by Baker’s lab is based on dendrimers, star-like synthetic polymers that can carry a vast array of molecules on the ends of their arms. It is possible to build a single dendrimer carrying many different kinds of molecules such as contrast agents and drugs, but the synthesis process is long and difficult, requiring months for each new molecule added to the dendrimer in sequential steps. And the yield of useful particles drops with each successive step of synthesis.
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