In the PNAS study, researchers demonstrated that this approach effectively eliminates lab-grown human brain, prostate and bone cancer cells in a mutation-specific manner.
- "The molecules are able to detect a mutation within a cancer cell, and then change conformation to activate a therapeutic response in the cancer cell, while remaining inactive in cells that lack the cancer mutation,"
- Here's how it works: Treatment involves two different small RNAS. The first small RNA will open up if --and only if-- it finds the cancer mutation. A positive "diagnosis" exposes a signal that was previously hidden within the small RNA. Once this small RNA is open, a second small RNA binds to it, setting off a chain reaction in which these RNA molecules continue to combine to form a longer chain. The length of the chain is an important part of the "treatment". Longer chains trick the cell into thinking it has been invaded by a virus, tripping a self-destruct response.
These cells will self-destruct in 5 ... 4 ...
New treatment activates death program in cancer cells
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), researchers at the California Institute of Technology have created conditional small RNA molecules to perform this task. Their strategy uses characteristics that are built into our DNA and RNA to separate the diagnosis and treatment steps.