Nanomedicine for cancer immunotherapy: Spherical nucleic acids

An image to illustrate spherical nucleic acids
© Chad Mirkin/Northwestern University

A Northwestern University team has developed a method of optimising spherical nucleic acids, which could revolutionise nanomedicine for cancer immunotherapy in the future.

Spherical nucleic acids are digitally designed nanostructures, which have DNA and RNA arranged on a nanoparticle’s surface. They have the ability to treat a wide range of diseases, but there is a need to optimise their components before they can be used for these potential purposes.

A Northwestern University team led by nanotechnology pioneer Chad A. Mirkin has developed a direct route to optimize these challenging particles, bringing them one step closer to becoming a viable treatment option for many forms of cancer, genetic diseases, neurological disorders and more.

A new class of medicine

Chad Mirkin, the inventor of spherical nucleic acids and the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, commented: “Spherical nucleic acids represent an exciting new class of medicines that are already in five human clinical trials for treating diseases, including glioblastoma (the most common and deadly form of brain cancer) and psoriasis.”

Using machine learning to optimise spherical nucleic acids

The new study explains the use of machine learning to rapidly synthesize, measure and analyse the activities and properties of SNA structures.

The process was developed by the study’s co-author Milan Mrksich, the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and director of the Center for Synthetic Biology.

Andrew Lee, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and study co-author, added: “With this new information, researchers can rank the structural variables in order of importance and efficacy, and help establish design rules for SNA effectiveness.”

The potential for developing cancer treatments

Mirkin concluded: “This study shows that we can address the complexity of the SNA design space, allowing us to focus on and exploit the most promising structural features of SNAs, and ultimately, to develop powerful cancer treatments.”

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