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Science and the Environment

MSU Research Team Embarks on Mission to Find Natural Treatment for Skin Cancer

RNA/credt: AJ Cann

There have already been over a million new cases of cancer diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. The most common is skin cancer, and one type of skin cancer is melanoma, which can be deadly. 

Dr. Robert Delong, associate professor of biomedical sciences, along with a team of professors and students, will be experimenting with cultured melanoma cells to find a new treatment with RNA.

RNA, which stands for ribonucleic acid, carries instructions from DNA to build more complex proteins. 

“And we’re actually trying to use the RNA molecules themselves, as the therapeutic and what we’re trying to do, is to deliver those RNA molecules into cancer cells, and the RNA gets delivered by the nanomaterial, the nanoparticle,” Delong said.

Nanomaterials are small particles often used for a wide variety of things.

But in this case, the research will use nanomaterials from elements that are naturally in the body, like zinc and magnesium, to deliver the RNA molecule. This research is different from other therapy like chemotherapy, which is directed at the DNA and gene level.

“So we will being doing simple experiments to observe whether the RNA molecules that we study, binds or interacts with the nanomaterial, because if we’re going to use these nanoparticles to deliver these RNAs into cancer cells, they have to be bound, the RNA has to be bound by the nanoparticle,” Delong said.

Delong hopes that once he and his research team find a stable RNA and nanoparticle, they’ll be able to start testing them on the melanoma cell.  They’ll be looking to see if its gene and molecular expression become more normal. The goal is to treat cancerous cells while being nontoxic to normal cells.

The grant was awarded by the National Cancer Institute.  The money will not just go toward research costs, but also give undergraduates the opportunity to help.  The research team also includes a variety of specialists from MSU, who include:

Dr. Adam Wanekaya,  chemistry associate professor

Dr. Kartik Ghosh, physics, astronomy and materials science professor

Dr. Richard Garrad, biomedical sciences professor

For KSMU News, I’m Anna Thomas.