Designer nano luggage to carry drugs to diseased cells

March 9, 2010

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in growing empty particles derived from a plant virus and have made them carry useful chemicals.

The external surface of these nano containers could be decorated with molecules that guide them to where they are needed in the body, before the chemical load is discharged to exert its effect on . The containers are particles of the Cowpea mosaic virus, which is ideally suited for designing at the nanoscale.

"This is a shot in the arm for all Cowpea mosaic virus technology," says Professor George Lomonossoff of the John Innes Centre, one of the authors on a paper to be published in the specialised nanotechnology scientific journal, Small.

Scientists have previously tried to empty virus particles of their genetic material using irradiation or chemical treatment. Though successful in rendering the particles non-infectious, these methods have not fully emptied the particles.

Scientists at the John Innes Centre, funded by the BBSRC and the John Innes Foundation, discovered they could assemble empty particles from precursors in plants and then extract them to insert chemicals of interest. Scientists at JIC and elsewhere had also previously managed to decorate the surface of virus particles with useful molecules.

"But now we can load them too, creating fancy chemical containers," says lead author Dr Dave Evans.

"This brings a huge change to the whole technology and opens up new areas of research," says Prof Lomonossoff. "We don't really know all the potential applications yet because such particles have not been available before. There is no history of them."

One application could be in . Integrins are molecules that appear on cancer cells. The could be coated externally with peptides that bind to integrins. This would mean the particles seek out to the exclusion of healthy cells. Once bound to the cancer cell, the virus particle would release an anti-cancer agent that has been carried as an internal cargo.

Some current drugs damage healthy cells as well as the cancer, leading to hair loss and other side effects. This technology could deliver the drug in a more targeted way.

"The potential for developing Cowpea mosaic virus as a targeted delivery agent of therapeutics is now a reality," says Dr Evans.

The empty viral particles, their use, and the processes by which they are made, are the subject of a new patent filing. Management of the patent and commercialisation of the technology is being handled by PBL.

Explore further: Big hit on a small scale for black-eyed peas

More information: "Cowpea Mosaic Virus Unmodified Empty Virus-Like Particles Can Be Loaded with Metal and Metal Oxide." DOI:10.1002/smll.200902135

Related Stories

Big hit on a small scale for black-eyed peas

March 7, 2006

What have Black-eyed peas got to do with nanotechnology? As well as sharing their name with a chart-topping U.S. band, Black-eyed peas (also known as Cowpeas) are being used by scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich ...

Molecular anatomy of influenza virus detailed

December 30, 2006

Scientists at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville ...

Tiny delivery system with a big impact on cancer cells

December 15, 2008

Researchers in Pennsylvania are reporting for the first time that nanoparticles 1/5,000 the diameter of a human hair encapsulating an experimental anticancer agent, kill human melanoma and drug-resistant breast cancer cells ...

Recommended for you

Wafer-thin material heralds future of wearable technology

July 27, 2015

UOW's Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) has successfully pioneered a way to construct a flexible, foldable and lightweight energy storage device that provides the building blocks for next-generation ...

Could stronger, tougher paper replace metal?

July 24, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant ...

Changing the color of light

July 23, 2015

Researchers at the University of Delaware have received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to explore a new idea that could improve solar cells, medical imaging and even cancer treatments. Simply put, they want ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.