Around 700,000 people die every year due to antibiotic-resistant infections, and by the year 2050, it is estimated that superbugs will kill around 10 million people every year. One of the issues causing this is antibiotics misuse, such as over-prescription, incorrect doses and useless consumption. This gives the bacteria a chance to adjust and become more resistant to the drug, which can lead to a highly possible fatal result. These figures are staggering and show a real threat we are facing.
How we can solve these issues?
That’s where tiny machines, inspired by origami, step in. Those are not just any origamis, they are DNA ones, based on DNA nanotech. Ioanna Mela, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, believes that this innovative technique can boost drug efficiency and improve patient treatment. The approach based on the tiny DNA origami machines indicates that smaller doses could be used in the treatment. In addition, fewer side-effects would occur since drug efficiency would be enhanced.
Short DNA course
Before we explain the function of these tiny machines, let’s go through a short course about DNA. The deoxyribonucleic acid, aka DNA, carries hereditary material in almost all organisms, including humans. It holds coded genetic information about our inherited traits. One of DNA’s exquisite features is that it can be folded into almost any pattern, the reason why it is called DNA origami. The other cool feature is that small pieces of it can be redesigned to have the exact same shape needed to bind with other biological molecules.
In the past few years, researchers have made a big leap forward in mapping and understanding the human genome. The acquired knowledge enables many to come up with some innovative ideas since its manipulation can result in some great technological discoveries. We are still at the very beginning of this technology, yet there are already many innovations based on DNA nanotechnology advancing the fight against injuries and illnesses. And, what’s more, there are certainly many yet to come.
You can also take a look at one of our previous posts about DNA nanotechnology, and see another innovative approach inspired by it.
How does DNA origami work?
Now, let’s get back to these tiny bacteria-killing machines made up of DNA origami and see how they work. This innovation is based on the previously mentioned DNA features. It is designed in the form of a flat platform with 5 wells, or hooks, protruding from the sides. This design improves the ability of the machines to bind to bacteria such as Escherichia Coli and Bacillus subtilis. Once attached to the bacteria, it starts releasing previously loaded molecules of lysozyme, an enzyme that kills microorganisms trying to enter our bodies. This whole process reduces the growth of the bacteria and, since the platform is locked to the bacteria, it makes it easier and more efficient for the enzyme to work its magic. Although this innovative approach of remodeling DNA has been popular for a few years now (helping fight cancer, for instance), the positive impact it may have on antibiotic development and overall health is immense.
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