CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Nanoparticles that deliver short strands of RNA offer a way to treat cancer and other diseases by shutting off malfunctioning genes. Although this approach has shown some promise, scientists are still not sure exactly what happens to the nanoparticles once they get inside their target cells.
A new study from MIT sheds light on the nanoparticles' fate and suggests new ways to maximize delivery of the RNA strands they are carrying, known as short interfering RNA (siRNA).
"We've been able to develop nanoparticles that can deliver payloads into cells, but we didn't really understand how they do it," says Daniel Anderson, the Samuel Goldblith Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. "Once you know how it works, there's potential that you can tinker with the system and make it work better."
Anderson, a member of MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, is the leader of a research team that set out to examine how the nanoparticles and their drug payloads are processed at a cellular and subcellular level. Their findings appear in the June 23 issue of Nature Biotechnology. Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, is also an author of the paper.
One RNA-delivery approach that has shown particular promise is packaging the strands with a lipidlike material; similar particles are now in clinical development for liver cancer and other diseases.
Through a process called RNA interference, siRNA targets messenger RNA (mRNA), which carries genetic instructions from a cell's DNA to the rest of the cell. When siRNA binds to mRNA, the message carried by that mRNA is destroyed. Exploiting that process could allow scientists to turn off genes that allow cancer cells to grow unchecked.
Scientists already knew that siRNA-carrying nanoparticles enter cells through a process, called endocytosis, by which cells e
|Contact: Sarah McDonnell|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology