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McGill Team Builds DNA Nanotubes for Drug Delivery

by Editor1 last modified May 10, 2010 - 22:34

A team of McGill Chemistry Department researchers led by Dr. Hanadi Sleiman has created a flexible DNA-based nanotubes which could be used to improve drug delivery to treat cancers and disease.

McGill Team Builds DNA Nanotubes for Drug Delivery

The Sleiman Group team created DNA nanotubes that can encapsulate, load and deliver a cargo

The Sleiman Group team created DNA nanotubes that could encapsulate, load and deliver a cargo. In turn, the cargo can be released “rapidly and completely,” when a specific external DNA strand is added, Sleiman said. These DNA structures are only a few nanometers wide but can be extremely long, about 20,000 nanometers.

Until now, DNA nanotubes could only be constructed by rolling a two-dimensional sheet of DNA into a cylinder. Sleiman's method allows nanotubes of any shape to be formed and they can either be closed to hold materials or porous to release them. Materials such as drugs could then be released when a particular molecule is present.

A possible future applications for this discovery is cancer treatment. However, Sleiman cautions, we are still far from being able to treat diseases using this technology; this is only a step in that direction. “Researchers need to learn how to take these DNA nanostructures, such as the nanotubes here, and bring them back to biology to solve problems in nanomedicine, from drug delivery, to tissue engineering to sensors,” she said.

Sleiman Group’s On-Going Development of DNA Nanotubes
DNA nanostructures have been a on-going focus of the Sleiman Group. In a recent post about published research conducted last year, the group noted DNA nanotubes “can template the growth of nanowires, orient transmembrane proteins for NMR determination, and can potentially act as stiff interconnects, tracks for molecular motors, and nanoscale drug carriers.”

As most methods for the construction of DNA nanotubes result in symmetrical and cylindrical assemblies (entirely double-stranded), Dr. Sleiman’s team in 2009 reported their work that resulted in a modular approach to DNA nanotube synthesis. This approach provides access to geometrically well-defined triangular and square-shaped DNA nanotubes, the team reported.

The work also led the team to construct the first nanotube assemblies that can exist in double- and single-stranded forms with significantly different stiffness.

“The novel approach allows for parameters such as geometry, stiffness, and single- or double-stranded character to be fine-tuned, and could provide access to designer nanotubes for a range of applications, including the growth of nanowires of controlled shape, the loading and release of cargo, and the real-time modulation of stiffness and persistence length within DNA interconnects,” the team’s post reported.

The team’s most recent discovery was published on March 14, 2010 in Nature Chemistry.

The research was made possible with funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.