Self-assembly of DNA- or RNA-triggered ion channels for targeted cell killing and nanopore sensing

Drawing inspiration from nature to kill cancer cells and pathogens selectively

Project leader: M. Mayer

Team: B. Rothen-Rutishauser; A. Fink; C. Rüegg; M. Lattuada, S. Vanni

The membrane attack complex (MAC) of the mammalian complement system is a natural and efficient killing machine that constitutes an essential part of the innate immune response. Essentially, invasion by a pathogen triggers a cascade of enzyme activation and proteolytic cleavage events, which trigger the assembly of complementary proteins to a pore in the pathogen’s plasma membrane that causes its death. Due to the emergence of resistance of micro­orga­nisms to antibiotics on one hand and cancer cells to chemo­therapeutics on the other, there exists an urgent need for the development of novel therapeutic approaches. The MAC of the complementary system has, through evolution, been selected to be efficient against a large number of pathogens. This system, therefore, provides an inspiring example for the design of stimulus-responsive nanomaterials with a function that may help to address resis­tance of cancer cells and pathogenic microorganisms. The main goal of this project is to develop molecules that mimic the defensive mechanism of the MAC of the mammalian immune response. A second goal of the project is the application of the knowledge acquired to develop a new highly specific approach for nanopore sensing.

Main investigator

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