Recently we shared with you about how scientists are developing nanobots. These are molecule-sized machines that one day may be used to help you battle mesothelioma.
The most probable use of nanobots will be to deliver mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs directly to the tumor and nowhere else.
In other words, nanobots will make sure the chemo payload doesn’t land by mistake on any of the healthy cells that adjoin or are in the vicinity of the mesothelioma tumor.
Because the delivery will target only mesothelioma cells, it’s expected that the chemo drugs will work much more effectively and spare you from experiencing chemo’s most unpleasant side effects.
Nanobots surely are intriguing. But we thought you might also find fascinating the process by which these tiny delivery devices are built. The methodology is called DNA origami.
DNA Folds into Predictable Shapes
In DNA origami, engineers isolate a strand of DNA and subject it to certain stimuli. Doing so causes it to automatically fold into a distinct shape.
Scientists have found that they can vary the shape by varying the stimuli. So if you wanted the strand to form into a circle, you’d subject it to one set of stimuli.
If you wanted the strand to turn into a square, you’d subject it to another set of stimuli. If you wanted the strand to join other squares and become a three-dimensional box, you’d plug in still another set of stimuli.
It’s all quite consistent and predictable. Consequently, scientists have been busy cataloging which stimuli cause a DNA strand to fold up into specific shapes.
More importantly, DNA origami offers the potential for assembly line manufacture of DNA shapes. Where nanobots are concerned, mass production is exactly what’s required.
Promising Future in the War on Mesothelioma
According to the scientists, the shapes are produced by first creating a template strand of DNA in the desired shape. To that template are added a quantity of small “staple” strands of DNA.
The template and the staple strands are heated and then cooled in a small amount of salt water. When completed, a drop of that water will contain roughly 1,000 identically folded copies of the DNA template strand.
Scientists indicate that a high percentage of the copies will pass inspection. But, they note, some will be rejects because they didn’t fold exactly right.
Scientists say that the number of rejects increases as the shape to be copied becomes more complex. Scientists admit they don’t know yet how to solve that problem.
And the reason they don’t know how to solve it is because they don’t yet have a clear understanding of why DNA origami works.
Researchers writing in a recent issue of the journal Nature say they believe it will be possible to unlock the deeper mysteries of DNA origami. Once they succeed, they will be able to improve quality control on their molecular-scale production lines, the researchers assure.
Already, though, insights gleaned from their research and the research of others is fueling the prospects for an exciting future in treating mesothelioma at the molecular level.