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Using DNA to efficiently deliver drugs to target cells

Expanding medical care to all countries to ensure everyone has access to safe and effective medicines and vaccines. This is a major challenge for the fields of pharmaceutical sciences and health care worldwide. 
Currently, with urgent need that exists for drug development to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the Nishikawa Laboratory is working on “DNA-driven medicine.”

Medicines into which nucleic acids (i.e., the parts of DNA and RNA responsible for storing and communicating genetic information) have been incorporated are known as “nucleic acid medicines.” Nucleic acid medicine development is taking place on a global scale, with many researchers and pharmaceutical manufacturers focusing their efforts on it. The reason is because nucleic acid medicines are potential wonder drugs which offer high specificity and are able to be chemically synthesized in mass quantities.

The Nishikawa Laboratory is working on developing a drug delivery system (DDS) that can deliver drugs to target cells. 
One of the challenges for nucleic acid medicines is ensuring that these medicines are delivered to target cells. The Nishikawa Laboratory has developed three-dimensional structures using nucleic acids which facilitate drug delivery to target cells.

DNA has a linear, double helix structure, but from this many branches are created possessing numerous “pods.” By loading nucleic acid medicine onto each pod, this improves the efficiency of drug delivery to the target cells.

Enabling maximum drug functioning for effectiveness against all illness

Another important challenge is ensuring the drug is sufficiently effective once it reaches its target. So, the Nishikawa Laboratory is also working on a method for sustaining drug efficacy. This involves promoting self-gelation of nucleic acid medicines so that they will build up at the target site to provide sustained efficacy.

“I want this DDS research to become widely known,” says Professor Nishikawa. And each day the Nishikawa Laboratory pushes further ahead with its research, aiming to produce results that will enable practical application of nucleic acid medicine and DDS in pharmaceutical and health care settings.

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences Department of Pharmacy
Professor Makiya NISHIKAWA

■ Main research content

Fields of research encompass biopharmaceutics and pharmacokinetics. Research focuses on DDS for nucleic acids, cells and extracellular vesicles.

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