September 1, 2009

Nanodiamonds may mean safer gene therapy

U.S. scientists say they've created a gene therapy system using nanodiamonds to deliver genes to treat such diseases as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Northwestern University researchers said their scalable system that can deliver genes to cells both efficiently and safely combines key properties in one approach: enhanced delivery efficiency along with outstanding biocompatibility.

Finding a more efficient and biocompatible method for gene delivery than is currently available is a major challenge in medicine, Assistant Professor Dean Ho, who led the research, said. By harnessing the innate advantages of nanodiamonds we now have demonstrated their promise for gene therapy.

Ho and his team said they engineered surface-modified nanodiamond particles that successfully and efficiently delivered DNA into mammalian cells. Ho said the delivery efficiency was 70 times greater than that of a conventional standard for gene delivery.

There's a long road ahead before the technology is ready for clinical use, Ho said, but we are very pleased with the exciting properties and potential of the nanodiamond platform.

The research that included Xue-Qing Zhang, Mark Chen, Robert Lam and Xiaoyang Xu, all from Northwestern, and Eiji Osawa of the NanoCarbon Research Institute at Japan's Shinshu University, appears in the online edition of the journal ACS Nano.