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Japanese develop capsules to deliver cancer therapeutic genes

  • May 31, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 7:20 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, May 31 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Toshiba Corp. <6502> and Shinshu University have said they developed supersmall biodegradable capsules to deliver therapeutic genes into cancer cells accurately and efficiently.

They claimed to have become the world’s first that succeeded in a demonstration test to deliver such genes into leukemia cells by using supersmall capsules, according to their announcement made Friday.

Toshiba and Shinshu University plan to start a clinical trial within three years, hoping to put the capsules into practical use early.

At present, viruses are used as carriers of therapeutic genes. But the method leaves some infection risks during the production and the use for treatment. The capsules are safer because they are synthesized.

“Research into genetic therapies that kill cancer cells without using viruses has started only recently,” Shinshu University professor Yozo Nakazawa said. “We’re in the world’s leading group.”

The capsules, each about 100 nanometers in diameter, are Toshiba-designed liposomes made mainly of six kinds of lipid. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

The capsules get into cancer cells and dissolve, releasing therapeutic genes inside the cells. Normal cells are not affected.

In experiments on animals, leukemia cell growth was successfully suppressed in mice into which capsules carrying cancer therapeutic genes were injected, according to Toshiba and the university.

The newly developed capsules can deliver genes to various target cells efficiently if their lipid composition is adjusted according to the characteristics of the cell membranes, the two organizations said.

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