Korean scientists have developed a nanotech method of producing filament-shaped artificial viruses that, in preliminary experiments, show promise in delivering genetic materials and other molecules into cultured human cells. From “A new artificial virus construction with therapeutic potential“, written by Yun Xie at Ars Technica:
For years, scientists have been trying to create artificial viruses that are as proficient as natural ones in delivering materials to cells. Successful, artificial viruses could carry therapeutic agents into human cells to treat a variety of diseases. Unfortunately, synthesizing an artificial virus with the ideal shape and size for maximum delivery efficiency is extremely difficult. A common method for their generation involves polyion coupling, which often leads to aggregates with uncontrollable dimensions.
The Lee research group at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea found an alternate strategy, one that used pre-organized supramolecular nanostructures to construct, for the first time, a filament-shaped artificial virus. Filamentous shaped nanostructures last longer in vivo, and many natural viruses are filamentous. The process started with the creation of Glu-KW, a β-sheet peptide based supramolecule. Glu-KW’s self-assembled β-sheet contains two linkers: a nucleic acid-binding segment and a carbohydrate ligand. The β-sheet consists of alternating hydrophobic and charged amino acids, assisting the self-assembly. Glu-KW is coated with glucose to shield the charges on the surface of the β ribbon, which increases the chance of cell binding.
…The β ribbon templates are capable of assembling artificial viruses with favorable sizes and shapes. The virus’ simultaneous ability to deliver genetic materials and hydrophobic therapeutic reagents are particularly useful, and the researchers’ approach is flexible and allows for a variety of structural changes to the virus. Until we study the toxicology of these artificial viruses, however, we cannot judge their full potential for treating diseases.
The research was published in Angewandte Chemie (citation)