Nano-sized 'factories' churn out proteins

Tiny particles could manufacture cancer drugs at tumor sites.

Story content courtesy of MIT News Office, US

Drugs made of protein have shown promise in treating cancer, but they are difficult to deliver because the body usually breaks down proteins before they reach their destination.

To get around that obstacle, a team of MIT researchers has developed a new type of nanoparticle that can synthesize proteins on demand. Once these "protein-factory" particles reach their targets, the researchers can turn on protein synthesis by shining ultraviolet light on them.

The particles could be used to deliver small proteins that kill cancer cells, and eventually larger proteins such as antibodies that trigger the immune system to destroy tumors, says Avi Schroeder, a postdoc in MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and lead author of a paper appearing in the journal NanoLetters.

"This is the first proof of concept that you can actually synthesize new compounds from inert starting materials inside the body," says Schroeder, who works in the labs of Robert Langer, MIT’s David H. Koch Institute Professor, and Daniel Anderson, an associate professor of health sciences and technology and chemical engineering.

Dr. Langer and his colleagues presented at Nanotech 2011, Boston, in the Cancer Nanotechnology Symposia. To view the team’s abstract, visit:

To view the 2012 TechConnect World-Nanotech conference program, which will be held June 18-21 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and feature hundreds of oral and poster presentations from 70+ countries, visit:

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