Research Spotlight: Advancing cancer treatments with PNA

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Armin Tahmasbi Rad, Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh, Shipra Malik and Dr. Raman Bahal have begun studying PNA at UConn. The goal of their research is to help deliver cancer treatments more precisely.  Photo courtesy of UConn Today.

Armin Tahmasbi Rad, Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh, Shipra Malik and Dr. Raman Bahal have begun studying PNA at UConn. The goal of their research is to help deliver cancer treatments more precisely. Photo courtesy of UConn Today.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut are studying nanoplatforms for peptide nucleic acids (PNA). 

The research was led by Armin Tahmasbi Rad, representing the lab of Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Shipra Malik, representing the lab of Dr. Raman Bahal, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences. It made the cover of the journal Nanoscale. 

Peptide nucleic acids are artificial polymers similar to DNA & RNA. This research specifically focuses on using PNA with nanodiscs, which are tiny discs of lipids used by scientists.

“Exploring nanodiscs for delivery of PNA was really intriguing,” Malik said in an interview with UConn Today. “I was developing PLGA, an FDA approved polymer-based nanoparticle for PNA delivery in tumor cells.  Armin was developing a completely different delivery system which had not yet been explored for PNAs.” 

Part of what made this research so successful was its collaboration across fields. 

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It is a rewarding experience to see our efforts in basic science, in collaboration with Raman’s group, leading to a potential platform for cancer treatment.
— Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh

“He [Bahal] was enthusiastic and, being from different backgrounds, we were able to bring together our expertise making the research more impactful,” Malik said in an interview with UConn Today

The applications of this research in medicine are numerous. They include helping with the precision of the delivery of cancer treatments. 

“We are living in an era of precision medicine. Interdisciplinary collaborations are imperative in solving some key issues related to drug delivery for the success of precision medicine,” Bahal said in an interview with UConn Today. “Our next step is to work on pre-clinical studies to assess the efficacy of these nanodiscs in conjunction with PNA technology.”

Nieh emphasized how excited he was for the possibilities of this technology. 

“Our research group has been conducting fundamental research to investigate the formation mechanism and stability of self-assembling lipid nanodiscs for more than ten years. We understand some important parameters that harness the system, but there is still a large area for us to explore,” Nieh said in an interview with UConn Today. “It is a rewarding experience to see our efforts in basic science, in collaboration with Raman’s group, leading to a potential platform for cancer treatment.”

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Grace McFadden is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at grace.mcfadden@uconn.edu.

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