New DNA Nanomachines Taught to Fight Cancer

A group of international scientists has been exploring using new DNA-based nanomachines for gene therapy. The nanomachines are hoped to be more effective in the treatment of oncological diseases.

As reported in Medical Life Science News, the medical community considers gene therapy to be one of the promising paths to treat oncological diseases. However, there is a need to improve current modes of therapy. At this point, gene therapy doesn’t always effectively distinguish malignant cells from healthy cells. It also isn’t always successful when interacting with its folded RNA targets.

 The Operating Principle

The researchers sought to resolve these issues by using specialized nanomachines. The premise hinged on the idea that they would use DNA enzymes that can interact with targeted RNA throughout the binding, unfolding, and cleaving processes.

According to the scientists “The nanomachines have to recognize DNA oncomarkers and form complexes that can break down messenger RNA of vital genes with high selectivity, which will then result in apoptotic [programmed] death of malignant cells.”

After testing the efficiency of the new machines, the scientists learned that the machines can cleave folded RNA molecules better than the original deoxyribozymes.

They were able to show that the design of the nanomachine allows it to break down targeted RNA when it’s in the presence of a DNA oncomarker. Also, by using RNA-unfolding arms, the machine operates with greater efficiency.

Although the nanomachine was shown to discourage the growth of malignant cells, further research in that area seems to be necessary.

A New Approach

The previous methods are different from this new approach on a basic level. The existing gene therapy drugs are engineered to suppress the expression of oncological markers. In the new approach, the oncological marker was used as an activator, and the scientists concentrated their efforts on changing the messenger RNA of vital genes. As a result, any type of cancer could be treated with this method– using new DNA oncomarkers to activate a process that breaks down targeted molecules.


Before the new approach can be used in cancer therapy, many more experiments need to be conducted.

Daria Nedorezova, Master’s student at ITMO University, one of the institutions involved in the research, offers insight. Nedorezova explains that they are attempting to introduce functional elements in the framework that will recognize ocological markers. They are also optimizing the DNA nanomachine for various RNA targets.

Nedorezova explains that existing chemical modifications will aid in:

  • improving the efficiency and selectiveness of the researchers constructions in cellular conditions
  • selecting new RNA targets, and
  • studying the stability of DNA machines in cells.

The results of the study were published in Angewandte Chemie.


Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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