Cancer genes in human melanomas have been switched off via RNA interference (RNAi):
The researchers created the particles from two polymers plus a protein that binds to receptors on the surface of cancer cells and pieces of RNA called small-interfering RNA, or siRNA, designed to stop the RRM2 gene from being translated into protein. The siRNA works by sticking to the messenger RNA (mRNA) that carries the gene’s code to the cell’s protein-making machinery and ensuring that enzymes cut the mRNA at a specific spot.
When the components are mixed together in water, they assemble into particles about 70 nanometres in diameter. The researchers can then administer the nanoparticles into the bloodstream of patients, where the particles circulate until they encounter ‘leaky’ blood vessels that supply the tumours with blood. The particles then pass through the vessels to the tumour, where they bind to the cell and are then absorbed.
Once inside the cell, the nanoparticles fall apart, releasing the siRNA. The other parts of the nanoparticle are so small, they pass out of the body in urine. “It sneaks in, evades the immune system, delivers the siRNA, and the disassembled components exit out,” Davis says.