Improved DNA tech could replace antibodies in detecting and treating diseases
A team ofresearchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnologyat the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) hasworked to develop an efficient technology that uses DNA to detect andtreat infectious diseases. Improving upon an existing method, theresearch makes use of single-stranded DNA molecules called aptamers,and it could be used to treat cancer.
Aptamers aregood candidates for the development of new treatments, as they havean innate ability to bind to any molecule they're targeted at,including cancer cells and bacteria. Once bound to a target, the aptamer inhibits itsactivity, eliminating the threat it poses to the host.
While aptamersare useful for both detecting and treating dangerous conditions, theysuffer from two issues that stop them from being as effective as theycould be. Firstly, the bonds they form with target molecules areusually too weak to be effective, and they're easily digested byenzymes. These two problems have been a barrier to getting aptamersapproved for clinical use.
The A*STARresearchers decided to tackle these exact problems. Firstly, theyadded an artificial component, referred to as an unnatural base, to astandard aptamer, increasing its ability bind to target molecules. Asecond addition was then made in the form of a small DNA, known asmini hairpin DNA. With a particularly stable and compact structure,the component is very resistant to digestion, allowing the aptamer toreside in the system for days instead of hours.
With the twomajor issues with DNA aptamers addressed, it's possible that theycould one day replace antibodies for disease targeting. Antibodiesbind to their targets in the same way as aptamers, but unlike thepioneering DNA technology, they can give rise to undesirable immuneresponses, and aren't as easy to produce in large quantities at highquality.
"Our aptamersare more efficient, and lower in cost and toxicity compared toconventional methods," said team member Dr Hirao. "The next stepof our research is to use the aptamers to detect and deactivatetarget molecules and cells that cause infectious diseases, such asdengue, malaria and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, aswell as cancer."
The findings ofthe work were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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