Friday, 23 April 2010

Tiny nanotubes to deliver biomaterials like DNA and RNA for effective gene therapy

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 23: A group of city scientists has developed tiny nanotubes that could serve as next generation micro pills to deliver biomaterials like DNA and RNA for effective gene therapy.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology have already patented this unique technology. The nanotubes developed from organic material, for the first time in the world, could be useful not only to deliver small regulatory RNA and DNA as therapeutic materials but also to optimise pill-like properties for orally ingested materials.

"This beautiful technology may help in making the next-generation micro pills to deliver biomaterials for effective gene therapy and novel cargoes for molecular diagnostics. It can also be used for mass delivery of therapeutic biomolecules via food in various animal populations for the improvement of animal husbandry," Dr Utpal Bhadra of CCMB told this correspondent.

The IICT-CCMB team comprising JS Yadav, MP Lavanya, PP Das,
Manika Pal Bhadra and Utpal Bhadra zeroed in on a special material for construction of nano tubes. They selected p-aminobenzoic acid
or PABA in short. This is a natural material that forms part of folic acid and the vitamin B complex present in the human liver. Since it is a natural non-protein amino acid, it has little side effects on animals or human beings. Moreover, PABA is also known to support folic acid production by intestinal bacteria.

The PABA nano tubes will also help in increase of PABA concentration in the intestine during oral ingestion, which might help intestinal bacteria to convert it into folic acids, and protect against strokes, cardiovascular diseases and even certain cancers. Therefore, ingestion of PABA nano tubes plays a dual role, directly as a delivery vehicle of therapeutic agents and indirectly by preventing different diseases as a therapeutic agent itself.

"These nano structures minimise many obstacles including absorption in body fluids, systemic spreading and the reduction of immunogenetic symptoms. The tubes also maintain their fluorescent activity for a long period of time and do not suffer from dissociation or decay of fluorescence," Dr Bhadra said.

The advantage of nano tubes is that they spontaneously adsorb onto the membrane and later accumulate within intracellular compartments.

Referring to the safety of the new technology, the team points out that in drosophila studies no difference in size or any abnormalities in their sexual behaviour were observed. The egg laying capacity of adult females for six consecutive days after hatching and the sex of hatched flies were counted. No significant difference was detected in egg laying capacity and male/female ratios in nano tube-fed females as compared to the wild type.

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