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Breakthrough Offers Promising Applications in Medicine
April 1, 2010

A team of McGill University Chemistry Department researchers, led by Dr. Hanadi Sleiman, has achieved a major breakthrough in the development of nanotubes — tiny “magic bullets’ that could one day deliver drugs to specific diseased cells. Dr. Sleiman explains that the research involves taking DNA out of its biological context. So rather than being used as the genetic code for life, it becomes a kind of building block for tiny nanometer-scale objects.

Using this method, the team created the first examples of DNA nanotubes that encapsulate and load cargo, and then release it rapidly and completely when a specific external DNA strand is added. One of these DNA structures is only a few nanometres wide but can be extremely long, about 20,000 nanometres. (A nanometre is one-10,000th the diameter of a human hair.)

One of the possible future applications for this discovery is in the treatment of cancer.

The team’s discovery was published recently in Nature Chemistry. The research was made possible with funding provided by the National Science and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

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