Is a new generation of bandages coming our way soon?
A group of researchers working at a pharmacutical company claim that they have created bandages that, once applied, can actually turn genes on or off, and can thus cause healing to move faster, or even cure conditions we just cannot cure at the moment, using special RNA strands.
While DNA is the blueprint of life, it has a cousin - RNA. RNA is like the builder that uses DNA as guidance. RNA carries the info from DNA and decides what genes will be expressed in the body. It is this ability by the RNA to influence the activity level of genes that makes using it a crucial step in our quest to cure diseases on a genetic level - including cancer tumors, chronic diseases and wounds.
This approach is called 'RNA Interference', which makes use of short strands of RNA molecules and supplying them to the places we need them to change, or in other words, the places where they can affect the genes we want to become more or less active. However, most delivery systems for RNA strands require them to travel through the bloodstream, which they rarely survive.
Now, a new strategy is trying to bring RNA strands directly to the place we want them to influence. For instance, critical wounds near the skin that won't heal on their own. For this, we will take a bandage which is specially coated with RNA strands. If we want to deal with tumors located deeper within the body, then surgeons can leave some polymers on the tumor, and they will gradually dissolve and release the RNA strands, which will seek out the remaining tumor cells and 'turn off' the genes that promote their growth, effectively stopping them.
To test this innovative method of delivering RNA, the scientists involved in the project took nylon bandages and coated them with the strands. They then applied the bandages to layers of human and animal cells. The results showed that within 10 days, the bandages released about 2/3 of their payload, and that they had almost completely shut down the genes they wanted to 'turn off'.
Images courtesy of: Sippakorn, Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net