Delivering RNA with tiny sponge-like spheres

Monday, February 27, 2012 - 05:30 in Biology & Nature

For the past decade, scientists have been pursuing cancer treatments based on RNA interference — a phenomenon that offers a way to shut off malfunctioning genes with short snippets of RNA. However, one huge challenge remains: finding a way to efficiently deliver the RNA.Most of the time, short interfering RNA (siRNA) — the type used for RNA interference — is quickly broken down inside the body by enzymes that defend against infection by RNA viruses. “It’s been a real struggle to try to design a delivery system that allows us to administer siRNA, especially if you want to target it to a specific part of the body,” says Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering at MIT.Hammond and her colleagues have now come up with a novel delivery vehicle in which RNA is packed into microspheres so dense that they withstand degradation until they reach their destinations. The...

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