New light-powered nanofactories could produce medicine inside the body

If you didn't get a chance to open your latest issue of the American Chemical Society's journal Nano Letters, it details new research into microscopic "factories" running on "DNA and other biological machinery." These can be implanted in the body, where they will assemble and release drugs locally into specific disease sites.

This may be a radical new approach to treating disease.

These nanoscale production units are tiny spheres that encapsulate biological protein-making machinery like those found in living cells. This system, which includes genetically coded instructions and components needed for protein synthesis, could be used to internally manufacture drugs that cannot be taken orally or are toxic and would harm healthy parts of the body.

Even more important, scientists have also developed a method to switch the micro-factories on and off by simply shining a laser on them. This means a doctor would have the power to administer doses of medicine into very specific locations at very specific times. This is a far more efficient delivery method than the carpet bombing of a technique such as chemotherapy that destroys healthy tissue along with the diseased.

In the past, researchers have been able to directly "manufacture" medicine at disease sites by utilizing genetically-modified, live bacteria. These artificial ones are modular instead, meaning that they can be modified over the course of treatment.

This research could lead to a fantastic new tool in the war against many forms of disease, and could be especially useful in rejiggering treatment techniques that cause a lot of colateral damage to the body, such as chemotherapy.

American Chemical Society, via EurekaAlert

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