In DepthMedical Nanotechnology

Spherical nucleic acids start rolling

Science  11 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6253, pp. 1150-1151
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6253.1150

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Summary

Nearly 20 years ago, researchers brought nucleic acids into the third dimension. Normally, snippets of DNA and RNA look like little strings. But researchers found that when they linked dozens of identical nucleic acid strands to a tiny metal nanoparticle, they formed nucleic acid particles that looked like tiny Koosh balls, with a solid core and floppy strands sticking out. Particles with complementary nucleic acids stuck together, forming 3D materials. But what was more unexpected was that cells readily took up the particles. Once inside cells, the spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) could bind to RNA and DNA in the cells, turning off the production of particular proteins. That has since been used to treat everything from psoriasis to cancer. Now, a center at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, has received $11.7 million to pursue SNA therapies, and human clinical trials with the particles are set to begin this fall.