A molecular “slingshot” to deliver drugs: new discovery at Tor Vergata University Rome
A “molecular slingshot” made of synthetic DNA that can deliver drugs at precise locations in the human body. This is the new idea developed by a team of researchers of the “Tor Vergata” University of Rome and University of Montreal, coordinated by Francesco Ricci, Associate Professor in Chemistry at the “Tor Vergata” University of Rome. The results of the study have been recently published in Nature Communications.
About 20,000 times smaller than a human hair, the molecular slingshot is composed of a synthetic DNA strand that can “load” a drug and then effectively act as the rubber band of the slingshot. The two ends of this DNA contain two anchoring moieties that can specifically stick to a target antibody, a Y-shaped protein expressed by the body in response to different pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. “When the anchoring moieties of the slingshot recognize and bind to the arms of the target antibody, the DNA is stretched and the loaded drug is released by a mechanism that reminds that of a real slingshot that ‘shoots’ a ball, said Simona Ranallo from the “Tor Vergata” University of Rome, first author of the study.
“One impressive feature about this molecular slingshot – said Francesco Ricci – is that it can only be triggered by the specific antibody recognizing the anchoring tags of the DNA 'rubber band'. By simply changing these tags, one can thus program the slingshot to release a drug in response to a variety of specific antibodies. Since different antibodies are markers of different diseases, this could become a very specific weapon in the clinician's hands.”
The group of researchers is now eager to show the potential of this new molecular tool in the medical setting, for the delivery of clinically relevant drugs. “We envision that similar molecular slingshots may be used in the near future to deliver drugs to specific locations in the body. This would drastically improve the efficiency of drugs as well as decrease their toxic secondary effects,” concluded Francesco Ricci.