Origami DNA may take twist out of doxorubicin delivery

Scientists hope to apply DNA origami to the delivery of doxorubicin--Copyright Björn Högberg, Karolinska Institutet.

These days, DNA is more than just genetic code--strands of DNA can be folded into two- and three-dimensional shapes. Quirky projects have created maps and smiley faces made from DNA origami, but a more serious use is to apply it to the delivery of doxorubicin in a way that could target the drug and cut its side effects in cancer treatment.

Doxorubicin is an effective anti-cancer drug with years of use behind it, but its side effects range from nausea to heart damage.

In a collaboration between the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Zhengzhou University in China, researchers are creating precisely coded and constructed nanoparticles of partially untwisted folded DNA that can trap and deliver doxorubicin directly to breast cancer cells, reducing the drug's effects on healthy cells, cutting the dose and therefore curtailing its side effects.

Particles made from DNA origami can carry a range of proteins or other molecules, and relaxing the amount of twist in the DNA molecules can control how slowly the drug is delivered.

"When the DNA has a lower degree of twist, there's more room for the doxorubicin to become attached, which leads to its slower release," says group leader Dr Björn Högberg.

- read the press release
- see the abstract