UAB researchers, in collaboration with the San Pablo Research Institute and the CIBER-BBN, have developed micromaterials composed solely of proteins, which are capable of releasing, over time, nanoparticles that can target specific cancer cells. and destroy them. The micromaterials mimic the natural secretory granules of the endocrine system and have been successfully tested in mouse models of colorectal cancer.

A team coordinated by the professor of the Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine and the Department of Genetics and Microbiology of the UAB Antonio Villaverde, with the participation of the San Pablo Research Institute and the CIBER-BBN, has developed self-contained micromaterials, composed only of proteins, capable of delivering the polypeptide that composes them over a prolonged period of time. The technology used to manufacture these granules, and which has been patented by the researchers, is relatively simple and imitates the organization of the secretory granules of the human endocrine system. From the point of view of chemical structure, it involves the coordination of ionic zinc with domains rich in histidine, an essential amino acid for living beings and therefore non-toxic.

The new micromaterials developed by the researchers are made up of chains of amino acids called polypeptides, which are functional and bioavailable in the form of nanoparticles to be released and target specific types of cancer cells for their selective destruction.

The research team has analyzed the molecular structure of these materials and the dynamics of the secretion process both in vitro and in animals. In an animal model of CXCR4 colorectal cancer, the system has shown high performance after subcutaneous administration and the released protein nanoparticles have been observed to accumulate in the tumor tissues of mice.

“Importantly, this accumulation is more effective than when the protein is administered into the bloodstream. This offers a new and unexpected way to ensure high local drug levels and better clinical efficacy, avoiding repeated intravenous administration regimens,” he explains. Professor Antonio Villaverde. “In the clinical context, the use of these materials in the treatment of colorectal cancer should greatly improve drug efficacy and patient comfort, while minimizing unwanted side effects.”

The research, carried out mainly by UAB researcher Julieta M. Sánchez, involved researchers from the Department of Genetics and Microbiology of the UAB, the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of the UAB (IBB-UAB), as well as as well as the Oncogenesis and Antitumor Drugs team led by Professor Ramón Mangues of the Sant Pau Research Institute. Both Professor Antonio Villaverde and Professor Ramón Mangues are attached to the CIBER of Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN). The Protein Production Platform (Unit 1) and the Nanotoxicology Platform (Unit 18) of the NANBIOSIS Singular Infrastructure have also participated in the project, and have been funded through various competitive research and technology transfer projects (including PID2019 -105416RB-I00/AEI/10.13039/501100011033, PDC2022-133858-I00, PID2022-136845OB-I00, CPP2021-008946, PI21/400), as well as CIBER-BBN intramural projects (VENOM4CANCER, NANOREMOTE and NANOS CAPE).