Breakthrough: Russian Scientists Developed New Smart Material Based on Nanotechnology

  • The new smart material can be used with DNA and RNA.
  • It will allow better drug delivery to the targeted area, due to its logical capabilities based on the sensitivity detection.
  • It has a spontaneous capabilities of curling into a ball.

A new material has been developed in Russia that will allow drugs to be transported to affected cells and will allow people to perform DNA testing at home.  The abstract has been published in ACS Publication titled “Nanoparticle Beacons: Supersensitive Smart Materials with On/Off-Switchable Affinity to Biomedical Targets.” The discovery was led by Maxim Nikitin from The Moscow Institute of Physics, and Technology (MIPT), known informally as PhysTech, a Russian university originally established in the Soviet Union. It prepares specialists in theoretical and applied physics, applied mathematics and related disciplines. MIPT is known for specifics of the MIPT educational process.

Nanoparticle are particles between 1 and 100 nanometres in size with a surrounding interfacial layer. The interfacial layer is an integral part of nanoscale matter, fundamentally affecting all of its properties. The interfacial layer typically consists of ions, inorganic and organic molecules.

Nanoparticle Image Source:

Nanotechnology based targeted drug delivery will allow lower required doses of drugs and to increase their therapeutic indices and safety profiles. It is possible to fabricate nanoparticles or nanocapsules with different properties as relates to drug encapsulation and release.

The abstract states that smart materials that can switch between different states under the influence of chemical triggers are highly demanded in biomedicine, where specific responsiveness to biomarkers is imperative for precise diagnostics and therapy. Superior selectivity of drug delivery to malignant cells may be achieved with the nanoagents that stay “inert” until “activation” by the characteristic profile of microenvironment cues.

Hence, the delivery of drugs specifically only to the affected cells is a more desirable method and much safer for patients. Since, for example, in the case of cancer treatment and chemotherapy protocols, a lot of times the chemotherapy drugs not only destroy impacted cells but also the healthy ones. Therefore, the side effects and long term ramifications remain high for the patients. However, it has been known for some time that testing can be done to distinguish healthy cells from the impacted one.

The research group described their work in layman’s terms based on the analogy that drugs are told to deliver to the house but are not told specifically the apartment where the delivery should take place.  The group has been working on similar projects since 2014. One of the biggest challenges in such smart materials development was a flaw of not having enough sensitivity. The authors claim that nanoparticles are able to produce a logical analysis based not on biochemical reactions.

A biochemical reaction is the transformation of one molecule to a different molecule inside a cell. Biochemical reactions are mediated by enzymes, which are biological catalysts that can alter the rate and specificity of chemical reactions inside cells. 

Russian scientists were able to create the new smart material, which is sensitive to the DNA signals. It can be concluded, it is the most sensitive material to date on the global market. The main reason for this breakthrough was that they observed unusual behavior of DNA molecules on the surface of nanoparticles. In this case the DNA strand was attached to the surface of the nanoparticles.

In the nucleus of each cell, the DNA molecule is packaged into thread-like structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome is made up of DNA tightly coiled many times around proteins called histones that support its structure.  Scientists attached the receptor on the other side, which was able to recognize markers on the cell surface. The cell surface is the locus for many important biochemical functions of cells and for the interactions of cells with one another and with their environment.

Image Source: compound chem

During testing, the receptor was not binding to the target. The hypothesis was made that the DNA strand attaches to the surface of the nanoparticle and curls into a ball. It is plausible that at that point the end of the thread receptor does not have contact with the target. More important, the new material also works with Ribonucleic acid (RNA), a polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation and expression of genes.

RNA and DNA are nucleic acids, and, along with lipids, proteins and carbohydrates, constitute the four major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life. The new product has no equal in its ability to recognize short fragments of nucleic acids (6-9 bases). The bases adenine, guanine, and cytosine are found in both DNA and RNA; thymine is found only in DNA, and uracil is found only in RNA. The bases are often abbreviated A, G, C, T, and U, respectively. For convenience the single letters are also used when long sequences of nucleotides are written out.

Image Source: byjus

DNA and RNA fragments can be used as markers of cells affected by the disease. In addition, the development will improve the technology of DNA and RNA analysis for medical and scientific purposes.

The exciting new work and targeted drug delivery using nanotechnology provides the highest chances of recovery from cancer and will lessen side effects of the general drug delivery. It is also a very important step in the increase of the sensitivity of the new smart material and the new opportunities it will bring to the medical community.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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