Fighting Diseases: Small Scale – Big Impact!


Screening through the journals from time to time, I thought two research findings should get a little bit more of attention:

1) The one, all of you will have heard of: Kevin Weeks and colleagues at University of North Carolina determined the Architecture and secondary structre of an entire HIV-1 RNA genome and published their results in Nature. Now the hope is, that scientists can develop new drugs with higher efficiency to inhibit the virus. These are encouranging news for far more than 30 million people on this planet.

2) A little less media presence got an article from Jinwoo Cheon and colleagues. They reported in Angewandte Chemie International Edition on multifunctional nanoparticles and their application in treating cancer while enabling concurrent monitoring. They uses nanoscaled iron oxide particles as core centers and functionalized their surface. Using iron oxide nanoparticles is the first clever trick as they can act as contrast agents in MRI. Secondly, the researchers attached a peptide to the iron oxide that binds to a specific receptor found in higher quantities on cancer cells (so its targeting some epidermal groth factors to distinguish between healthy and tumorous cells). The thrid part is a siRNA fragment, designed to block specific genes inside the cancer cells, thus stopping the tumor growth. And finally, Cheon and his colleagues conjugated an organic dye, so that the whole particle/molecule can be detected by means of fluorescence spectroscopy. Unfortunately, this molecule has only been tested in cell cultures so far, but Cheon hopes to get it to the market within five years (if everything goes well). At least, all the components are non-toxic, so one can hope that the final molecule will be non toxic and biocompatible as well. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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