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National Science Foundation

NSF 07-43, Benchmarks of NSF Innovation

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By attaching strands of "antisense" DNA to nanometer-scale gold particles, NSF-funded scientists at Northwestern University have significantly enhanced the strands' ability to suppress the production of proteins that cause cancer.

Antisense DNA, a kind of molecular mirror image of ordinary DNA, can be tailored to disrupt the production of specific protein molecules in the cell. Researchers have long believed that antisense DNA could be more eff ective than conventional drugs at fighting cancer and other diseases with a genetic basis, but the strands tend to break down in biological systems.

Now, the Northwestern group has shown that attaching antisense DNA strands to the surface of gold nanoparticles makes the strands both more stable and more effective in their protein-suppression role.

illustration of antisense DNA

Researchers have significantly enhanced "antisense" DNA's ability to suppress the production of proteins that cause cancer by attaching it to nanometer-scale gold particles. The DNA strands (purple) then
sequester RNA molecules (red) before they have the chance to result in disease-causing proteins.

Credit: F. Tsuyohiko, N. Rosi, and D. Giljohann, Northwestern Univ.

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