According to a study published in Science Daily, researchers at the University of Tokyo employed synthetic DNA in an innovative method to target and destroy cancer cells. In vitro studies have shown that human cervical cancer, breast cancer, and mouse malignant melanoma cells can all be destroyed. The researchers successfully created two hairpins of cancer-killing DNA.
MicroRNA (miRNA) is overproduced in some malignancies, and the provided DNA pairs are linked up with miRNA in cancer cells. When the DNA fragments that had linked to the miRNA unwound and came together to produce larger strands, the immune system reacted.
The immune reaction not only wiped out the ill cells but also slowed the spread of malignant cells. This technique, unlike traditional cancer treatment using anticancer drugs, is predicted to bring in a new age of drug discovery.
Cancer is a huge worldwide health problem, and existing treatments have substantial limits. Cancer and other difficult-to-treat disorders caused by viruses and genetic issues are treated with nucleic acid-based medications that have the power to influence the biological functioning of cells, potentially having far-reaching ramifications for the future of medicine.
A group of scientists led by Assistant Professor Kunihiko Morihiro and Professor Akimitsu Okamoto of the Graduate School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo was motivated to develop a new anticancer therapy utilizing synthetic DNA.
To treat cancers that have previously proved untreatable, “we thought that if we can design new medications that function by a different mechanism of action than existing treatments, they may be effective,” Okamoto added.
Nucleic acid drugs have been difficult to use in cancer treatment due to their inability to discriminate between cancer cells and healthy cells. Because of the risk of unintended immune system damage caused by the destruction of healthy cells, this medicine should be used with caution.
However, the team has now created the first hairpin-shaped DNA strand capable of instructing the immune system to track down and destroy just cancer cells. Overexpression, or the development of an excessive number of copies of a particular DNA or RNA molecule, might cause it to malfunction in cancer cells. The researchers created an oncolytic (cancer-fighting) DNA hairpin known as oHPs.
An overabundance of a small (micro) RNA called miR-21, which has been detected in various malignancies, encouraged these oHPs to create long strands of DNA. oHPs seldom combine into longer filaments due to their twisted hairpin form.
The synthetic oHPs, on the other hand, unfold and connect with the targeted microRNA to generate a longer strand once inside the cell. Because it sees the overexpressed miR-21 as a foreign intruder, the body’s innate immune system targets the cancer cells and kills them.
Extensive research has demonstrated that overexpression of miR-21 in human cervical cancer, human triple-negative breast cancer, and mouse malignant melanoma cells may be suppressed.
According to Okamoto, this research group discovered the formation of long DNA strands as a result of the interaction between short DNA oHPs and overexpressed miR-21 and is the first example of its use as a selective immune amplification response that can target tumor regression, providing a new class of nucleic acid drug candidates with a mechanism that is completely different from known nucleic acid drugs.