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January 15th, 2009
A fantastic voyage brought to life
"Our lab is creating biological nano-machines," says Dr. Peer. "These machines can target specific cells. In fact, we can target any protein that might be causing disease or disorder in the human body. This new invention treats the source, not the symptoms."
Dr. Peer's recent paper reported on the device's ability to target leukocytes (immune cells) in the guts of mice with ulcerative colitis. Calling his new invention a submarine, Dr. Peer has developed a nano-sized carrier which operates like a GPS system to locate and target cells. In the case of Crohn's disease, for example, it will target overactive immune system cells in the gut. In other diseases such as cancer, the submarine can aim for and deliver material to specific cancer cells, leaving the surrounding healthy cells intact.
While other researchers are working in the area of nano-medicine and drug delivery, Dr. Peer's submarines are among the first to combine a drug candidate with a drug delivery system. As the submarines float through the body, they latch onto the target cell and deliver their payload, a drug based on RNAi. This new kind of drug can affect faulty RNA machinery and reprogram cells to operate in normal ways. In essence, RNAi can essentially restore health to diseased cells or cause cells to die (like in the case of cancer cells).
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