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Plant-made virus shells could deliver drugs directly to cancer cells

Date:
February 15, 2017
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Viruses are extremely efficient at targeting and delivering cargo to cells. Researchers report they have harnessed this well-honed ability -- minus the part that makes us sick -- to develop virus-like nanoparticles to deliver drugs straight to affected cells. In lab tests, they show that one such particle can be produced in plants and it ferries small molecules to cancer cells.
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Viruses are extremely efficient at targeting and delivering cargo to cells. In the journal ACS Nano, researchers report they have harnessed this well-honed ability -- minus the part that makes us sick -- to develop virus-like nanoparticles to deliver drugs straight to affected cells. In lab tests, they show that one such particle can be produced in plants and it ferries small molecules to cancer cells.

For this work, Frank Sainsbury and colleagues copied the core protein shell of the Bluetongue virus, a pathogen that affects ruminant animals. Previous research has shown that the capsid is stable, has a large cavity for small molecules or proteins to pack into, and is easy to produce with high purity. The researchers wanted to try making the virus-shell nanoparticles using plants. This is an increasingly popular approach to producing pharmaceuticals as it minimizes possible contamination by human pathogens, which plants don't carry. But first they needed to understand the structure of the shells.

Using single particle cryo-electron microscopy, the team showed for the first time that the recombinant shell nanoparticles produced by plants were different from the natural virus capsid. With the nanoparticles' detailed structure in hand, the researchers then genetically and chemically engineered them to their specifications, and loaded proteins and small molecules inside the shells. Lab testing showed that the plant-made virus particles, which naturally bind to receptors on cancer cells, were taken in by human breast cancer cells. The findings suggest the nanoparticles can potentially be used for the targeted delivery of drugs.


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Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lou Brillault, Philippe V. Jutras, Noor Dashti, Eva C. Thuenemann, Garry Morgan, George P. Lomonossoff, Michael J. Landsberg, Frank Sainsbury. Engineering Recombinant Virus-like Nanoparticles from Plants for Cellular Delivery. ACS Nano, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.6b07747

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American Chemical Society. "Plant-made virus shells could deliver drugs directly to cancer cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084057.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2017, February 15). Plant-made virus shells could deliver drugs directly to cancer cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084057.htm
American Chemical Society. "Plant-made virus shells could deliver drugs directly to cancer cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084057.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

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