Northwestern University's Chad A. Mirkin, a world-renowned leader in nanotechnology research and its application, has invented and developed a powerful material that could revolutionize biomedicine: spherical nucleic acids (SNAs).
Mirkin will discuss SNAs and their applications in therapeutics and diagnostics in a talk titled "Nanostructures in Biology and Medicine" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston. His presentation is part of the symposium "Convergence of Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences: Next Innovation Economy" to be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15.
Potential applications include using SNAs to carry nucleic acid-based therapeutics to the brain for the treatment of glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer, as well as other neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Mirkin is aggressively pursuing treatments for such diseases with Alexander H. Stegh, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine.
"These structures are really quite spectacular and incredibly functional," Mirkin said. "People don't typically think about DNA in spherical form, but this novel arrangement of nucleic acids imparts interesting chemical and physical properties that are very different from conventional nucleic acids."
Spherical nucleic acids consist of densely packed, highly oriented nucleic acids arranged on the surface of a nanoparticle, typically gold or silver. The tiny non-toxic balls, each roughly 15 nanometers in diameter, can do things the familiar but more cumbersome double helix can't do: