Author: Nikki Jiang
Editor: Jaylen Peng and Hwi-On Lee
Artist: Lalita Ma
Our DNA is a set of instructions for building the proteins, tissues, and organs that comprise our body. Cancer is a disease often attributed to DNA mutations, causing uncontrolled cell division, which allows cancer to spread rapidly and take over the human body. Due to its variability in causes, types, and outcomes, it is challenging to create a cancer therapeutic applicable to various cancer patients. While doctors and other healthcare professionals continue to fight the disease through personalized treatment plans and methods such as chemotherapy and radiation, scientists are developing new strategies for efficient cancer treatment: artificial DNA. A recent study from the University of Tokyo shows the potential role of this unique DNA in cancer therapeutics.
The immune system’s role is to identify and eliminate pathogens and other bodily threats. So why doesn’t it just kill cancer? The answer is that it doesn’t even recognize cancer as a threat. To address this issue, scientists in Tokyo have created a way to activate the body’s defense system against cancer. They made small pieces of artificial DNA designed to fit together like puzzle pieces around the microRNA inside cancer cells. MicroRNA is a crucial component in cancer cell growth. When these controllers malfunction, cancer can spread. Dysregulated microRNA allows the cancer cells to overcome growth regulators, induce rapid growth, and evade cell death. These tiny pieces of artificial DNA can attach to the microRNA within cancer cells, creating a tag that alerts the body’s immune system to identify and eliminate these harmful cancer cells.
Another benefit of DNA treatments is their specificity. Rather than exposing the body to highly potent drugs that kill both cancer cells and healthy cells, DNA can find and attack only the harmful cancer cells without damaging healthy ones. Scientists have created a synergistic team of artificial DNA and antibodies to develop a highly effective and specific cancer treatment. Antibodies are proteins that attack specific targets, therefore, neutralizing the antigen that is cancer. Through the combination of artificial DNA and antibodies, this treatment can identify and deliver treatment to the cancer cells where it’s needed.
This type of treatment could reduce the side effects of cancer treatments significantly and improve the patient’s quality of life. Studies such as this one conducted by the University of Tokyo contribute to a brighter future in medicine. Such studies are major steps in strengthening cancer therapeutics and creating a new world of cancer treatment through biotechnology. It’s as if they have created an anti-cancer army for the body, an improved version of the previous anti-cell growth approach. But we’re not there just yet. There is much more to learn before administering such treatments to patients. Understanding how to optimize these artificial DNA tools while ensuring they are safe for everyone is imperative.
Artificial DNA helps our immune system identify harmful cancer cells and ensure treatments are directly delivered to those cells. While there is much more to discover, these studies bring hope to everyone fighting the battle against cancer and promise a brighter future for medical biotechnology.
“Artificial DNA Kills Cancer.” ScienceDaily, 2022,
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/12/221221090609.htm. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023.
Peng, Yong, and Carlo M. Croce. “The Role of MicroRNAs in Human Cancer.” Signal
Transduction and Targeted Therapy, vol. 1, no. 1, Nature Portfolio, Jan. 2016,
https://doi.org/10.1038/sigtrans.2015.4. Accessed 15 Sept. 2023.