Many of the activities happening within our bodies are incredibly difficult to study, as some happen in hard to reach places and their timespan is very short. The action of neurosteroids, chemicals that perform an important role in the lives of neurons, is one such topic. Neurosteroids take less than a second to act, and getting anywhere near them is hard. Now a team at the University of Chicago is reporting on the development of tiny cages that can ferry small molecules to be released precisely when and where the researchers want to.
The team made their cages, only 20 nanometers in diameter, out of pieces of DNA, as the material is biocompatible and can be strung together tightly so that even small cargo held inside will not escape. Neurosteroids, being particularly small, can be held in multiples inside each cage without letting any of the individual molecules to come out.
The cages can be directed to their destination using targeting molecules attached to the exterior of the nano-containers and they open up and release their cargo when light of a certain frequency is shone onto them.
Because the researchers know where and when the molecules are released, they can monitor their effects and what interactions begin occurring due to their introduction.
Study in Nature Nanotechnology: Cell-targetable DNA nanocapsules for spatiotemporal release of caged bioactive small molecules…