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Tianjin University Develops An NIR-controlled Gene Expression System

 

Recently, Professor Chang Jin and his group from the School of Life Sciences of Tianjin University developed a NIR (near-infrared) -controlled gene expression system based on unconverting rods (UCRs). They published an article entitled “NIR-Remote Selected Activation Gene Expression in Living Cells by Upconverting Microrods” in Advanced Materials journal, an international scientific journal of pragmatics, and achieved significant progress in cancer accurate treatment.

The traditional radiation and chemotherapy is a category of cancer treatment that uses chemical substances to address cancer at any anatomic location in the body. However, many of the side effects of chemotherapy can be traced to damage to normal cells that divide rapidly and are thus sensitive to anti-mitotic drugs. Compared with UV light, NIR light is expected to cause minimal cell damage. Therefore, the “targeted therapy for cancer” became a research hotspot in the oncotherapy field.

Professor Chang Jin and researchers applied UCRs to harvest the “biocompatible” NIR light and convert it into local UV light, resulting in cleavage of the photosensitive molecule (4-(hydroxymethyl)-3-nitrobenzoic acid, ONA) and on-demand release of gene carriers, thus realizing target gene expression at high spatial and temporal resolutions.

Subsequently, the lanthanide-doped NaYF4Tm upconverting rods (UCRs) were synthesized successfully. To monitor the NIR light trigger-controlled gene expression in cells by UCRs, hela cells were incubated with the gene nano-carriers.
In summary, a novel NIR-trigger gene expression system has been presented by using UCRs that act as the transducers. The NIR light could be harvested by UCRs and converted into local UV light for photocleavage of the o-nitrobenzyl of 4-(hydroxymethyl)-3-nitrobenzoic acid (ONA), thereby real- izing on-demand gene nanocarrier release. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first example of using UCRs to control gene expression spatiotemporally by irradiating the interested region under 980-nm NIR light. Besides, there were abundant mesopores on the nanocarriers and UCRs, in which various kinds of dyes and drugs could be loaded to support living cell labeling and improve drug delivery efficiency. Moreover, the GFP gene from plasmid DNA was just a model gene in our system for NIR-remote selected activation gene expression in living cells; it could be substituted for genes with significant functionality, such as promoting apoptosis used for anti-tumor purposes, enhancing immunity for anti-virus applications, expressing special recep- tors to support cell–cell interactions, and inducing differentiation for tissue morphogenesis. In conclusion, our work will promote the design of UCR-based multifunctional gene nanocarriers for biotechnology and gene-based drugs for treating diseases.

"The near-infrared (NIR) light iatrotechnique is a precise, safe and controllable targeted therapy technology”, said professor Chang Jin, “compared with UV light, NIR light is expected to cause minimal cell damage, biomolecules can be encapsulated into vesicles that can be conjugated to the light-sensitive molecule through chemical reaction, so the chemical structure and bioactivity can be protected by the vesicles during the uncaging process.”

Professor Chang Jin and his group devoted themselves to the research of nano-biomaterials and its application to major disease diagnosis and treatment. He introduced that light appears to be an ideal trigger for controlling biomolecular behavior at precise locations, for the current study the regular imaging tumor detections such as Computed Tomography (CT), Position Emission Tomography (PET), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) release radiation and play a limited role in detecting the tumor at an early stage. The nano-biolechnology is best described as helping modern medicine progress from treating symptoms to generating cures and regenerating biological tissues. They assemble different nanoparticles such as gold nanoparticles, magnetic nanoparticles, and near infrared nanoparticles, realize the visual treatment for tumor.

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