May 2, 2014

In an experiment performed on mice, Johns Hopkins biomedical engineers and neurosurgeons successfully carried DNA to cells of brain cancer. The DNA in question was loaded with what they are calling “death genes,” which, as the name suggests, killed the brain cancer cells.

The “death gene” DNA is made from biodegradable nanoparticles and the researchers predict that their development can one day be used as a part of neurosurgery in such a way that it will be able to kill lingering brain cancer cells without the surgeon having to be too invasive when it comes to cutting into his patient’s head.

How does this work? The DNA is injected into the patient’s body or, in this case, the mouse’s body, and then travels down a directed path that leads to brain cancer cells and tissues. The brain is quite complex and basically has its own army that protects foreign objects from entering it. Because of this, the DNA can’t travel through the blood stream – it would never make it to the brain – and needs to be administered directly to the brain during neurosurgery. Once the DNA reaches its destination, it is activated and kills the targeted harmful cancer cells. This may eliminate the need for chemotherapy in patients with brain cancer or act as a replacement for chemotherapy.

The DNA being used isn’t a drug, it is a gene that kills cancer cells exceptionally well. That having been said, the body does not reject the DNA because it recognizes the DNA as part of itself. This eliminates adverse side-effects and the sicknesses that chemotherapy causes. Chemotherapy destroys healthy cells and tissues in the process of killing cancerous ones; the DNA death gene does not do this. It kills its targeted cells and leaves the healthy cells alone. After the initial brain tumor has been surgically removed, the death genes can get to work, killing any residual cancerous tissue and cells.

The experimentation on the mice can be described thus: there were mice with brain cancer and a test group of healthy mice. The researchers injected the DNA death genes into the brains of both of the mice and monitored their reactions and progress. They found that the healthy cells remained unaffected while the cancer cells were exterminated.

The DNA is highly stable and can be stored after having been freeze dried for up to two years! Imagine cancer therapy on-demand. Although more testing and experimentation must be conducted, and one must go through the ever impending FDA, hopefully soon this type of treatment will become available to cancer patients world-wide.

Authored by Quiñones-Hinojosa, Jordan Green, Hugo Guerrero-Cázares, Stephany Tzeng, Noah Young,  Ameer Abutaleb, Kristen Kozielski, Stephany Tzeng and Bolivia Hurtado De Mendoza, is an article published in the Marcy 26th, 2014 edition of the scientific journal acs Nano.

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