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Biological Chemistry

Gene Therapy For Skin

siRNA-coated nanoparticles penetrate engineered human skin to regulate expression of genes in skin cells

by Lauren K. Wolf
July 9, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 28

Thanks to scientists at Northwestern University, treating skin cancer might become as easy as rubbing on a nanoparticle-filled lotion (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1118425109). A team led by Chad A. Mirkin and Amy S. Paller demonstrated that, when applied to both mouse skin and engineered human skin, spherical gold nanoparticles coated with densely packed, oriented strands of small interfering RNA penetrated the skin’s many layers. Once past the outer layer, the particles switched off targeted genes inside skin cells. For instance, particles applied to engineered human skin decreased expression of a gene coding for epidermal growth factor receptor by 52%. This protein is overexpressed in a number of cancer cell types. Not only did the researchers observe the particles penetrate skin, they also saw them leave. Ten days after treatment, mice retained only 2% of the gold from the originally absorbed particles.

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