Cancer diagnostics and treatment options could be ‘drastically’ improved with the creation of a ‘designer’ nanodevice being developed by researchers from the UK, Italy, the US and Argentina.
The researchers say the diagnostic ‘nanodecoder’, which will consist of self-assembled DNA and protein nanostructures, will greatly advance biomarker detection and provide accurate molecular characterisation, enabling more detailed evaluation of how diseased tissues respond to therapies.
The project’s long-term goal is to develop a molecular nanodevice for imaging of biomarkers in tissue samples and cells. It will initially help to accurately characterise skin cancers and glycogenosis type II (where the body cannot get rid of glycogen from the muscles), being especially useful to assess in vitro the effectiveness of experimental therapies.
A team from the University of Lincoln is taking part in the research. Dr Enrico Ferrari, lead researcher at the university, said: “Once a cancer has been diagnosed the next stage is to try various treatment methods, but it is often difficult to understand the specific effect of treatment. This nanodecoder is the perfect tool to be able to both diagnose cancer accurately and record therapeutic effects.
“Our hybrid nanodevice is an artificial device made out of DNA and protein. Molecules arranged in a very specific way can perform a function – this is what we are trying to achieve, in an artificial way. It’s like DNA origami; it’s possible to engineer different shaped molecules but we want to engineer molecules that also have a function. After this project, we will be in a position to claim we have a very well defined expertise to make hybrid molecular devices.”