OCT 08, 2016 05:25 AM PDT

Coming Soon: Drugs on Demand - Just Add Water

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
2 5 488
Scientists have created a portable way to make pharmaceuticals by using freeze-dried components that can make complex compounds that only need to be hydrated, and do not require refrigeration.  This technique could be a great help to those that are far away from hospitals or can’t get to a drugstore quickly, it can even benefit astronauts who are on the space station. The researchers from Harvard and MIT have reported their technology in Cell.
 

"I think this opens up possibilities of creating a biotech equivalent of the chemistry kits many of us grew up with that consisted of powders and chemicals," commented senior author James Collins, who has a research lab at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. "Now, we show that you can actually have freeze-dried DNA components and other biomolecules that can be used in an easy, low-resource way to explore the power of our technology."

Collins’ team took a new approach. Their technique freeze-dries the molecular machines that are utilized to make RNA and proteins during transcription and translation of DNA. Those parts are then made into pellets, which only need water, after which they can start making the molecule of interest.

Such a method has broad applicability. Since there is focus on the creation of antibodies not only for use as treatments of microbial infections, but also as a therapeutic for diseases like cancer and immune disorders, the scientists utilized their advancement to create a portable toolbox for the production of designer antibodies. One target of the antibodies that causes disease was C. dificile, a pathogen that can result in death for people that are infected. Another was an antibody that targeted and killed breast cancer cells.
 
The graphical abstract of the study / Credit: Cell Press Pardee et al

In their work, the investigators also tested on-site vaccine production, using the pellets to make a vaccine against diptheria. The current vaccine is highly sensitive and can be adversely affected by both hot and cold temperatures, making distribution of the vaccine around the world very challenging. Being able to make this vaccine on demand and on site would be a great achievement. The researchers determined that their portable system did in fact synthesize a vaccine that elicited a protective effect in mice.

"We showed that you could get an appropriate biological response," explained Collins. "We're not developing novel vaccines, but we're showing that if we can encode the antigens in DNA, then we can harness that ability and have the vaccines in an easy-to-ship and -store format."

While the exact costs vary depending on what is being made, this new technology greatly reduces manufacturing expenses. Almost no instruction is required to make it work, just add water. There is optimism in Collins’ team about the possible applications of their work. One caveat may be scalability, but the team is hard at work to address any potential issues.

The lab would also like to make more complex molecules with their platform as well as making improvements for use in the field and in education.

Sources: Eurekalert!/AAAS via Cell Press, Cell
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 12, 2018
Immunology
JUN 12, 2018
Auto-antibody Detection for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
No case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease, is the same. Now, researchers want RA diagnostic approaches to match its pathological diversit
JUN 25, 2018
Immunology
JUN 25, 2018
An Emerging Chronic Food Allergy: Eosinophilic Esophagitis
There’s a new food allergy in town, and it seems that children with existing allergies at an increased risk of developing it. From the Children&rsquo
JUN 28, 2018
Immunology
JUN 28, 2018
Synthetic T Cells the Next Big Thing in Immunotherapy
The highly complex structure and function of human T cells made the creation of synthetic versions of the immune cells difficult, but scientists from Unive
JUL 21, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 21, 2018
Revving the Nanomotor
Many people have never heard of cilia, but these tiny appendages are an essential part of the cell.
AUG 08, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 08, 2018
Changing White Fat to Brown Fat
Not all fat is the same. Brown fat is thought to be fat healthier than white fat.
AUG 13, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 13, 2018
In a First, Stem Cell Therapy for Parkinson's in Human Patients
A clinical trial that is the first of its kind has been started in Japan.
Loading Comments...