Amplification and Quantification of an Antisense Oligonucleotide from Target microRNA Using Programmable DNA and a Biological Nanopore

Analytical Chemistry

Research Highlight

A calculating approach to cancer therapy

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A ‘DNA computer’ that detects tumour cells and autonomously responds to their presence by launching an attack, has been designed by researchers from Japan’s Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT).

The DNA computer takes advantage of two known tumour vulnerabilities. Firstly, tumours reveal their presence by releasing strips of genetic material called microRNA. Second, they can be killed using ‘antisense’ DNA drugs — single (unpaired) strands of DNA that bind to and jam certain strips of genetic code unique to cancers.

The TUAT researchers programmed their DNA computer to exploit these vulnerabilities by creating two specific strips of DNA code. In the presence of the target microRNA, the two DNA strips bind together – and in doing so, form a single DNA strand with the correct code for the anti-tumour DNA drug. The strand acts as a template for churning out multiple copies of the drug.

When the team tested their computer against small cell lung cancer microRNA in the lab, it produced enough of the anti-tumour DNA drug for a therapeutically effective dose.

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  1. Analytical Chemistry 89, 2312–2317 (2016). doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b03830
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Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT), Japan