Self-assembled biomaterials & RNAi delivery for cancer therapy
RNA interference (RNAi) is a process whereby small double-stranded RNA fragments (siRNA) silence the expression of genes via the sequence-directed destruction of mRNA. The high specificity of RNAi makes it attractive for the development of targeted cancer therapies, however, clinical translation has been impeded by challenges with delivering siRNA in vivo that include the need to protect it from degradation and selectively target it to cancer cells. We have recently begun to develop RNA microsponges, nanostructured RNA particles that form through self-assembly, as a novel platform for siRNA delivery. These materials can be designed to contain a very high density of RNAi sequences that are protected from degradation by RNase enzymes but can be processed intracellularly to produce large quantities of siRNA. We are interested in further developing RNA micropsonges for cancer therapy by programming them with therapeutically relevant siRNA sequences and using surface funtionalization techniques to specifically target them to cancer cells. Future work will also seek to better understand the self-assembly of these materials and control their structures and properties through sequence engineering along with other approaches.
Email: kshops @ mit.edu