A new study has indicated that ribonucleic acid (RNA) nanoparticles could potentially be able to treat viral infections and cancer.
Research published in Nano Today and undertaken in the UK Markey Cancer Center revealed that the substances could bind to tumours without damaging the tissue that surrounds the cancer, as well as regulate cell function.
Scientists in the laboratory of Peixuan Guo – the institute's William S. Farish endowed chair in Nanobiotechnology – collaborated with the expert and UK Markey Cancer Center director Dr Mark Evers to use RNA to fabricate nanostructures from the bottom-up.
Researchers pursuing treatments for international healthcare concerns built X-shaped RNA nanoparticles – which were ultra-stable – before adding as many as four diagnostic and therapeutic modules.
Every additional functional module that was put in the substance resulted in a progressive increase in the regulation of cellular functions.
Some of the positive functions scientists managed to impart on the nanoparticles include thermodynamic stability, which kept the substances intact within circulatory systems, as well as polyvalence, which enables multiple functional molecules to be delivered simultaneously to deliver synergistic effects.
Furthermore, the RNA nanostructures were also chemically stable and resistant to digestion within the blood serum, while their modular design allowed them to be self-assembled within a pre-defined structure.
International health insurance treatments may eventually involve an injection of nanoparticles, as the RNA substances created by the researchers could contain interfering RNA that can silence genes, aptamer that targets cancer cells, a ribozone that acts as a catalyst for chemical reactions and micro-RNA that regulates gene expression.
Nanoparticles are currently under intense examination by scientists, as they are thought to have a wide number of potential applications in fields including biology, electronics and optics.
"RNA nanotechnology is an emerging field, but the instability and degradation of RNA nanoparticles have made many scientists flinch away from the research in RNA nanotechnology," Dr Guo said.
"We have addressed these issues and now it is possible to produce RNA nanoparticles that are highly stable both chemically and thermodynamically in the test tube or in the body," he added.