The PNAS paper describes the development of an innovative way to silence DARPP-32, a brain protein, understood to be a central "trigger" for the cascade of signals that occurs in drug addiction.
DARPP-32 is a protein in the brain that facilitates addictive behaviors. Silencing of the DARPP-32 gene with certain kinds of ribonucleic acid (RNA), called short interfering RNA (siRNA), can inhibit production of this protein and thus, could help prevent drug addiction.
"When you silence this gene, the physical craving for the drug should be reduced," said Adela C. Boniou, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher in the Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics in the UB Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, and a co-author.
The drawback has been in finding a way to safely and efficiently deliver the siRNA, which is not stable by itself.
The UB researchers were successful when they combined the siRNA molecules with gold nanoparticles shaped like rods, called nanorods.
This may be the first time that siRNA molecules have been used with gold nanorods.
"What is unique here is that we have applied nanotechnology to therapeutic concepts directed at silencing a gene in the brain, using RNA techniques," said Supriya D. Mahajan, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the UB Department of Medicine in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
In addition to their biocompatibility, the gold nanorods developed by the UB researchers are advantageous because they are rod-shaped rather than spherical, thus allowing for more siRNA molecules to be loaded on to their surface. This further increases their stability and allows for better penetration into cells.
"We have demonstrated that we can use these gold nanorods to stabilize the siRNA molecules, take them across the blood-brain barrier and silence the gene," said Indrajit Roy, P
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