DNA computer brings 'intelligent drugs' a step closer

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) present a new method that should enable controlled drug delivery into the bloodstream using DNA computers. In the journal Nature Communications the team, led by biomedical engineer Maarten Merkx, describes how it has developed the first DNA computer capable of detecting several antibodies in the blood and performing subsequent calculations based on this input. This is an important step towards the development of smart, 'intelligent' drugs that may allow better control of the medication for rheumatism and Crohn's disease, for example, with fewer side-effects and at lower cost.

An analogy for the method presented by the TU/e researchers is a security system that opens the door depending on the person standing in front of it. If the camera recognizes the person, the door unlocks, but if the person is unknown, the door remains locked. "Research into diagnostic tests tends to focus on the 'recognition', but what is special about this system is that it can think and that it can be connected to actuation such as drug delivery," says professor of Biomedical Chemistry Maarten Merkx.

DNA computer
To be able to perform such an action, 'intelligence' is needed, a role that is performed in this system by a DNA computer. DNA is best known as a carrier of genetic information, but DNA molecules are also highly suitable for performing molecular calculations. The sequence within a DNA molecule determines with which other DNA molecules it can react, which allows a researcher to program desired reaction circuits.

Antibodies
To date biomedical applications of DNA computers have been limited because the input of DNA computers typically consists of other DNA and RNA molecules. To determine whether someone has a particular disease, it is essential to measure the concentration of specific antibodies - agents that our immune system produces when we are ill. Merkx and his colleagues are the first to have succeeded in linking the presence of antibodies to a DNA computer.

Drug delivery
Their method translates the presence of each antibody into a unique piece of DNA whereby the DNA computer can decide on the basis of the presence of one or more antibodies whether drug delivery, for example, is necessary. "The presence of a particular DNA molecule sets in motion a series of reactions whereby we can get the DNA computer to run various programs," explains PhD student and primary author Wouter Engelen. "Our results show that we can use the DNA computer to control the activity of enzymes, but we think it should also be possible to control the activity of a therapeutic antibody."

Medication
In treating chronic diseases like rheumatism or Crohn's disease, such therapeutic antibodies are used as medication. One of the potential applications of this system is to measure the quantity of therapeutic antibodies in the blood and decide whether it is necessary to administer any extra medication. Merkx: "By directly linking the measurement of antibodies to the treatment of the disease, we may be able to prevent side-effects and reduce costs in the future."

Wouter Engelen, Lenny H. H. Meijer, Bram Somers, Tom F. A. de Greef, Maarten Merkx.
Antibody-controlled actuation of DNA-based molecular circuits.
Nature Communications, 14473 (2017), doi: 10.1038/ncomms14473.

Most Popular Now

In wine, there's health: Low levels of alcohol goo…

While a couple of glasses of wine can help clear the mind after a busy day, new research shows that it may actually help clean the mind as well. The new study, which appe...

Sanofi to acquire Ablynx for €3.9 Billion

Sanofi and Ablynx, a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery and development of Nanobodies®, entered into a definitive agreement under which Sanofi will offer ...

Repurposed drug found to be effective against Zika…

In both cell cultures and mouse models, a drug used to treat Hepatitis C effectively protected and rescued neural cells infected by the Zika virus - and blocked transmiss...

Interim publications of randomized trials make new…

Early results from randomized trials are sometimes published before the trial is completed. The results of such interim publications may generate a great deal of interest...

Drug trial protocol redactions by industry sponsor…

New research published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine exposes the extent of redactions in protocols for industry-sponsored randomised drug trials. Trial ...

Advanced Accelerator Applications receives FDA ap…

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) announced that Advanced Accelerator Applications, a subsidiary of Novartis Groupe S.A., has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approva...

Blood vessel-on-a-chips show anti-cancer drug effe…

Researchers at the Institute of Industrial Science (IIS), the University of Tokyo, CNRS and INSERM, report a new organ-on-a-chip technology for the study of blood vessel ...

Guidelines extended to improve the use of feedback…

Researchers have recommended changes to international guidelines used in the development of clinical trials in an effort to gain information about the impact of the treat...

Brilinta significantly reduces CV events and coron…

AstraZeneca today announced results from a new sub-analysis of the Phase III PEGASUS-TIMI 54 trial, demonstrating a risk reduction of 19% in MACE (the composite of CV dea...

Roche reports good results in 2017

In 2017, Group sales rose 5% to CHF 53.3 billion. Core operating profit grew 3% and Core EPS increased 5%, reflecting the good underlying business performance. On an IFRS...

FDA approves new treatment for certain digestive t…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) for the treatment of a type of cancer that affects the pancreas or gastrointesti...

How old antibiotic compounds could become tomorrow…

As the fight against drug-resistant infections continues, University of Leeds scientists are looking back at previously discarded chemical compounds, to see if any could ...

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]