TU/e develops ‘dna computer’ for drug delivery

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Researchers from Eindhoven have developed a ‘dna computer’ that can perform certain actions based on the detection of antibodies. The researchers believe that the molecular circuits could eventually help to deliver drugs based on the input.

It was already known that DNA molecules are suitable for signal processing and calculations. Autonomous molecular circuits can thus process input from their environment on the basis of algorithms and translate the result into a biological activity. Researchers can program this reaction by adjusting the order within DNA molecules. That order determines which other DNA molecules the circuit can react with, Eindhoven University of Technology reports. The advantage of the ‘dna computer’ is that it can be integrated into biological systems at the molecular level.

Until now, the disadvantage for biomedical applications has been that the circuits only worked on the basis of input from DNA or RNA molecules. Researchers would rather see them respond to antibodies. The presence of certain antibodies in the body is a good indication of a range of diseases, such as infectious and autoimmune diseases.

The TU/e ​​scientists have now devised a method to translate the presence of antibodies into specific DNA output sequences. Based on those DNA sequences, the molecular circuits can determine whether one or more antibodies are present, and decide that drug delivery is required.

“Our results show that we can use the DNA computer to monitor the activity of enzymes, but we think it is also possible, for example, to monitor the activity of a therapeutic antibody,” says PhD student and first author Wouter Engelen. A lot still needs to be done before that, but according to the university, the invention is an important step towards smart, ‘self-thinking’ medicines that can control medicines cheaply.

The scientists are publishing their research under the title Antibody-controlled actuation of DNA-based molecular circuits in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

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