If we manage to get RNA in a recipe for a needed protein into the cells of a patient we could treat many serious diseases. And when it comes to lung disease we could breathe them in. Nanotechnology capable of this is already being tested on humans with cystic fibrosis.
If you know anything about biology you know that the information stored in DNA is first translated from double strand DNA into single strand RNA. And RNA itself can be used for several reasons and one of them is as another recipe this time for protein. When we talk about such RNA we call it mRNA – messenger RNA.
This mRNA is being looked on by scientists and doctors who are developing new types of treatments. When mRNA gets into the cells of the patient it can start the making of proteins that help the patient. This new types of treatment is very promising but it does have some issues. For such treatment to work, you need to get the mRNA into the cells safely. And that is not easy. RNA isn’t strong and sometimes you just look at them and they start to decay.
But scientists still believe in mRNA. Asha Patel and her coworkers from MIT are working on a new treatment for lung diseases for example cystic fibrosis. Now they managed to develop a nanotechnology that included breathable RNA. This allows to apply RNA in aerosol form straight into the lungs. Aerosol could make the treatment simple to administer with for example a simple inhalator.
How do you make breathable RNA? New materials have recently been developed at MIT that allow to transfer mRNA strands. But they first needed to stabilize the mRNA in some way and to do so they used a special polymer. A mixture of RNA that makes luciferin (a protein that glows in the dark) and the polymer was used to create nanoparticles in the shape of balls. These were then mixed with water and sprayed on mice. After just 24 hours the mice’s lungs started to produce luciferin and started to glow. The amount of RNA slowly diminished and the cells stopped glowing.
The scientists also found that the nanoparticles can be frozen into a powder that can be used to fill inhalators. So maybe soon we will get to breathe in nanoparticles with RNA in it.