Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Cancer "Smart Bomb"

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Cancer "Smart Bomb"

Article excerpt

Researchers at North Carolina State University have successfully modified a common plant virus to deliver drugs only to specific cells inside the human body, without affecting surrounding tissue. These tiny "smart bombs"--each one thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair--could lead to more effective chemotherapy treatments with greatly reduced, or even eliminated, side effects.

Stefan Franzen, professor of chemistry, and Steven Lommel, professor of plant pathology and genetics, collaborated on the project, using the special properties of a fairly common and nontoxic plant virus as a means to convey drugs to the target cells.

The researchers say that the virus is appealing in both its ability to survive outside of a plant host and its built-in "cargo space" of 17 nm, which can be used to carry chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor cells. The researchers deploy the virus by attaching small proteins, called "signal peptides," to its exterior that cause the virus to "seek out" particular cells, such as cancer cells. Those same signal peptides serve as "passwords" that allow the virus to enter the cancer cell, where it releases its cargo. …

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