Scientists have created nanomachines that deliver drugs for treating cancer in the brain.

Researchers have found a way to deliver specific drugs to parts of the body that were traditionally considered

difficult to access for treatment.The Y-shaped block catiomer (YBC) binds to certain therapeutic materials to form a packet as small as 18 nanometers wide. It passes through much smaller intervals than previously researchers were able to do. This allows YBC to overcome barriers in the treatment of brain or pancreatic cancer.

The fight against cancer is in many directions. One of the promising areas is gene therapy, which is aimed at reducing the genetic causes of diseases. The idea is to introduce a nucleic acid-based drug into the bloodstream — a small interfering RNA that binds to a specific gene causing problems and deactivates it. However, such RNA is very fragile and must be protected inside the nanoparticles, otherwise it is destroyed before reaching its goal.

"Small RNA can disable specific geneexpressions that may cause harm. These are next-generation biopharmaceuticals that can cure various intractable diseases, including cancer, ”explains associate professor from Tokyo University Kajima Miyata, who co-led the study. “However, RNA is easily excreted from the body through enzymatic cleavage or elimination. Obviously, a new delivery method was needed. ”

At present, nanoparticles have a width of about100 nanometers, one thousandth of paper thickness. This is small enough to give them access to the liver through the leaking blood vessel wall. However, some cancers are harder to achieve. Cancer of the pancreas is surrounded by fibrous tissues, and cancer in the brain is tightly connected by vascular cells. In both cases, the available gaps are much smaller than 100 nanometers. Miyat and his colleagues created an RNA carrier small enough to penetrate through these gaps in tissues.

"We used polymers to makea small and stable nanomachine for delivering RNA drugs to cancerous tissues with a hard access barrier, ”said Miyata. "The shape and length of the component polymers are precisely matched to bind to specific RNA, so this is customizable."