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Gene silencer and quantum dots reduce protein production to a whisper
Date:6/23/2008

imaging, solar cells and light-emitting diodes.

This paper describes one of the first applications of quantum dots to drug delivery.

Each quantum dot was surrounded by a proton sponge that carried a positive charge. Without any quantum dots attached, the siRNA's negative charge would prevent it from penetrating a cell's wall. With the quantum-dot chaperone, the more weakly charged siRNA complex crosses the cellular wall, escapes from the endosome (a fatty bubble that surrounds incoming material) and accumulates in the cellular fluid, where it can do its work disrupting protein manufacture.

Key to the newly published approach is that researchers can adjust the chemical makeup of the quantum dot's proton-sponge coating, allowing the scientists to precisely control how tightly the dots attach to the siRNA.

Quantum dots were dramatically better than existing techniques at stopping gene activity. In experiments, a cell's production of a test protein dropped to 2 percent when siRNA was delivered with quantum dots. By contrast, the test protein was produced at 13 percent to 51 percent of normal levels when the siRNA was delivered with one of three commercial reagents, or reaction-causing substances, now commonly used in laboratories.

Central to the finding is that fluorescent quantum dots allow scientists to watch the siRNA's movements. Previous siRNA trackers gave off light for less than a minute, while quantum dots, developed for imaging, emit light for hours at a time. In the experiments the authors were able to watch the process for many hours to track the gene-silencer's path.

The new approach is also five to 10 times less toxic to the cell than existing chemicals, meaning the quantum dot chaperones are less likely to harm cells. The ideal delivery vehicle would have no effect; the only biological change would be siRNA blocking cells' production of an unwanted protein.

The exact reason that the quantum dots were more effective than pre
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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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