Genetically modified diatom; a way of targeted drug delivery

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(Last Updated On: April 4, 2020)
genetically engineered biosilica as a new way of targeted drug delivery
Genetically engineered biosilica as a new way of targeted drug delivery. Image: Dalalat et al., 2015

Scientists have created a new way of targeted drug delivery through genetic engineering. They have genetically engineered a diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana. Though there are many ways of targeted drug delivery that can be used to kill cancer cells selectively while keeping the healthy cells unaffected. There are also some challenges associated with them. Such as, nanoporous silica-based materials that have been developed successfully to be used as a targeted drug delivery method, however, its production is costly and requires toxic chemicals.


Cancer can arise due to different reasons such as; mutation in receptor tyrosine kinases that may be auto-activated to continue the cell growth, the mutation is tumor suppressor genes that encode tumor suppressor proteins to suppress the tumor formation or mutation in the cell cycle check-points to deregulate the cell cycle. However, targeted drug delivery to kill the cancer cells without affecting the normal cells is an extremely important factor to consider while designing drugs and chemotherapeutic agents for cancer treatment.

Researchers have modified a microalgae diatom, Thalassiosira pseudonana through genetic engineering that can be effectively used to deliver chemotherapeutic compounds to the cancer cell. This microalgae-derived biosilica has been engineered to display a glycoprotein IgG-binding domain on its surface that enables attachment of antibodies displayed on target cells. In this way, neuroblastoma cells and B-lymphocytes can be selectively targeted and killed by the genetically modified diatom displaying a specific antibody loaded with drug nanoparticles on its surface.

Researchers performed this experiment in a mouse model, where they used the same biosilica to treat the subcutaneous neuroblastoma and found tumor growth regression. This result reveals that genetically modified diatom can be used as a versatile way for targeted drug delivery of anticancer drugs to tumor cells that are poorly water-soluble.

Reference: Nature Communication

Article DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9791

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