MicroRNA molecules are short RNA strings that bind to certain messenger RNAs, in the process blocking messenger RNAs from being translated to create new proteins. When microRNAs aren’t operating properly, cancer may be the cause, but this connection has been poorly studied for clinical applications because microRNAs are so difficult to isolate in a blood sample.
Researchers at University of New South Wales in Australia have just reported in journal Nature Nanotechnology on a way of grabbing onto specific microRNA molecules and pulling them out of the sample.
The researchers are using specially created magnetic nanoparticles that have a gold exterior that have DNA strings that mirror the miRNA molecules being targeted. These nanoparticles can be injected into the blood stream and allowed to snap to the matching miRNAs they come across. After enough time passes, a magnet can be used to pull the nanoparticles from the blood.
The research is still in the laboratory stage and further work will be required before it can be applied to look for cancers in humans.