Using chemical "nanoblasts" that punch tiny holes in the protective membranes of cells, researchers have demonstrated a new technique for getting therapeutic small molecules, proteins and DNA directly into living cells.
Carbon nanoparticles activated by bursts of laser light trigger the tiny blasts, which open holes in cell membranes just long enough to admit therapeutic agents contained in the surrounding fluid. By adjusting laser exposure, the researchers administered a small-molecule marker compound to 90 percent of targeted cells while keeping more than 90 percent of the cells alive.
The research was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Institute of Paper Science and Technology at Georgia Tech. It will be reported in the August issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
"This technique could allow us to deliver a wide variety of therapeutics that now cannot easily get into cells," said Mark Prausnitz, a professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "One of the most significant uses for this technology could be for gene-based therapies, which offer great promise in medicine, but whose progress has been limited by the difficulty of getting DNA and RNA into cells."
The work is believed to be the first to use activation of reactive carbon nanoparticles by lasers for medical applications. Additional research and clinical trials will be needed before the technique could be used in humans.
Researchers have been trying for decades to drive DNA and RNA more efficiently into cells with a variety of methods, including using viruses to ferry genetic materials into cells, coating DNA and RNA with chemical agents or employing electric fields and ultrasound to open cell membranes. However, these previous methods have generally suffered from low efficiency or safety concerns.
With their new technique, which was inspired by e
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Georgia Institute of Technology Research News