APR 20, 2015 11:07 AM PDT

Stronger Protein-Nanoparticle Marriage Shows Promise for HIV, Cancer Treatments

WRITTEN BY: Will Hector
Fastening protein-based medical treatments to nanoparticles isn't easy.

With arduous chemistry, scientists can do it. But like a doomed marriage, the fragile binding that holds them together often separates.

This problem, which has limited how doctors can use proteins to treat serious disease, may soon change.
The image above illustrates how proteins (copper-colored coils) modified with polyhistidine-tags (green diamonds) can be attached to nanoparticles (red circle).
University at Buffalo researchers have discovered a way to easily and effectively fasten proteins to nanoparticles -- essentially an arranged marriage -- by simply mixing them together. The biotechnology, described April 20 online in the journal Nature Chemistry, is in its infancy. But it already has shown promise for developing an HIV vaccine and as a way to target cancer cells.

"Scientists have been able to attach proteins to nanoparticles for a while now. But it's a fairly difficult process that's only effective in a controlled environment. Nobody has been able to devise a simple method that can work inside the body," said Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD, UB assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who led the research.

He added: "We have proven that you can easily attach proteins to nanoparticles and, like Velcro that doesn't unstick, it stays together."

Additional authors include researchers from UB's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

To create the biotechnology, the researchers use nanoparticles made of chlorophyll (a natural pigment), phospholipid (a fat similar to vegetable oil) and cobalt (a metal often used to prepare magnetic, water-resistant and high-strength alloys).

The proteins, meanwhile, are modified with a chain of amino acids called a polyhistidine-tag. Uncommon in medicine, polyhistidine-tags are used extensively in protein research.

Next, the researchers mixed the modified proteins and nanoparticles in water. There, one end of the protein embeds into the nanoparticle's outer layer while the rest of it sticks out like a tentacle.

To test the new binding model's usefulness, the researchers added to it an adjuvant, which is an immunological agent used to enhance the efficacy of vaccines and drug treatments. The results were impressive. The three parts -- adjuvant, protein and nanoparticle -- worked together to stimulate an immune response against HIV.

The researchers also tested proteins that target cancer cells. Again, the results were exciting, with the new binding model acting like a homing missile to tumors. The targeted nanoparticles have the potential to improve cancer treatment by targeting specific cancer cells in lieu of releasing anti-cancer drugs everywhere in the body.

Lovell plans to follow up the research with more rigorous testing of the vaccine and tumor-targeted technologies. Moving to human clinical trials is the ultimate goal.

Follow Will Hector: @WriteCompassion

(Sources: University of Buffalo; Science Daily)
About the Author
  • Will Hector practices psychotherapy at Heart in Balance Counseling Center in Oakland, California. He has substantial training in Attachment Theory, Hakomi Body-Centered Psychotherapy, Psycho-Physical Therapy, and Formative Psychology. To learn more about his practice, click here: http://www.heartinbalancetherapy.com/will-hector.html
You May Also Like
NOV 05, 2018
Immunology
NOV 05, 2018
Amino Acid Helps to Promote T cells
Scientists at Vanderbilt show that the amino acid glutamine can contribute to a subset of T cell function and activation...
NOV 13, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 13, 2018
The Mechanism of a Cell-penetrating Peptide is Revealed
Cells have a barrier around them, which carefully controls what can move across it. That presents a challenge in pharmaceutical design....
NOV 16, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 16, 2018
Using Light to Control Organ Development
Optogenetics combined genetic engineering with optics to create a way to control cellular behaviors with light....
NOV 17, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 17, 2018
Joubert Syndrome Model Successfully Treated with Gene-editing
A life-threatening kidney disease may be one day be a treatable condition thanks to new work by researchers, and patients with the illness....
NOV 19, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 19, 2018
Revealing an Unexpected Role for RNA in DNA Repair
When both strands of DNA break, it must be repaired or the cell will die....
NOV 20, 2018
Videos
NOV 20, 2018
A Major Grant Aims to Improve our Understanding of Age-related Cognitive Decline
The American Heart Association has teamed up with the Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment to award the Salk Institute $19.2 million....
Loading Comments...