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Thomas is the B-Tech Update columnist for The SciTech Lawyer. He can be reached at CRT@bionano.com.
This column is devoted to developments in legislative, judicial, and public policy matters concerning the science and technology areas of biotechnology, pharmacy, life sciences, and related arts.
Biotech researchers have been spending lots and lots of time looking for ways to deliver drugs to specific targets inside the body. Typically the drugs cannot be allowed to spread throughout the body in concentrations high enough to affect the target because of toxic side effects, so the researchers often have attempted to encapsulate the drug materials. Unfortunately, the capsules introduce all kinds of complications given their varying biochemical makeup and properties. A consensus may be developing around using proteins for biocompatibility, but the fact that we are mostly water and that proteins dissolve in water presents a difficult problem for their use as encapsulating materials. Now researchers lead by Joseph DeSimone of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have tweaked protein particles so that they are insoluble outside of a cell, but become soluble once they reach the inside of a cell. Then they release their cargo—in this case a nucleic-acid based small interfering RNA (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja302363r).