Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Breath of Life

Inhaled messenger RNA prompts therapeutic protein production in lung cells

20 February 2019

Breath of Life

Talented sports people are sometimes ineffective until a great coach provides clear instructions that get the most out of them. And like promising but unguided prodigies, our body’s cells often have great capacity for healing illnesses in the body, but lack the proper motivation to do so. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a molecule that can induce cells to take particular actions, so holds promise for treating many diseases and exploiting our cells’ full potential, but it’s not easy to get it to the right place. Now researchers have created an inhalable form of mRNA, that could lead to new treatments for lung diseases such as cancer or cystic fibrosis. They successfully made mouse lung cells produce a green protein (pictured) after inhaling particles (yellow). If they can also prompt the production of therapeutic proteins, our own lung cells could become drug factories, producing an antidote right where it’s needed most.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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