WHEN a disease runs skin deep, perhaps all that is needed is moisturizer supercharged with gene-regulation technology.
The problem is that our skin is such a successful barrier against toxins that finding substances that penetrate it is a huge challenge, says Amy Paller at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. So until now, clinics have used lasers or ultrasound to help deliver drugs deep into the skin.
Paller and her colleague Chad Mirkin, also at Northwestern, have found a way through the skin barrier. They coated tiny gold spheres with small interfering RNA (siRNA) – tiny pieces of nucleic acid that appear to penetrate the barrier and enter skin cells through an as-yet unspecified pathway. The siRNA is selected to target one of the genes responsible for making cancer cells grow quickly, called epidermal growth factor receptor.
Paller and Mirkin mixed the drug with store-bought moisturizer and applied it to mouse skin. Not only did the nanoparticles penetrate the skin, but they also targeted the intended gene without causing toxicity or other side effects in the surrounding skin.
Attribution: New Scientist