Imperial College London
DNA strand delivering targeted medical treatment for improved skin healing
The human body has an incredible aptitude for self-healing of wounds, but there are occasions when our natural healing systems require support. Therapeutic agents are produced by the body to help repair wounds and tissue breakages, correcting particularly serious damage to skin and organs. In recent years, there has been significant progress in the applications of TrAPs (Traction Activated Payloads) to deliver these therapeutic agents to the precise location in the body where they are required.
TrAPs are a biologically inspired delivery device for therapies, made from a single DNA strand that forms a lasso for the therapeutic agent, and containing a “handle” which unravels the lasso at the point where the therapeutic agent is needed. This targeting of the therapy means that lower quantities of therapeutic agents can be used to treat medical conditions, consequently reducing any potential side-effects of the therapy.
While TrAPs are seen as potentially revolutionary in their ability to treat serious injuries, there is a significant opportunity for TrAPs to form a truly cost-effective, yet technologically advanced therapy. Conventionally, TrAPs use therapeutic agents that are synthetically manufactured, but this adds additional steps and increases the cost of manufacturing, while also complicating the shipping and storage.
Magdalene’s project aims to tackle this problem by investigating how TrAPs can harvest healing proteins directly from the body, specifically the blood, boost their impact, and direct them to areas in need. Following on from success in this project, Magdalene hopes that her work will lead to clinical trials which may usher in the use of TrAPs in regular medical practices.
Magdalene completed her Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London (ICL) in 2020, and for this fulfilled a placement year as a Device Research and Development Intern at Novartis in Switzerland. Whilst at University, Magdalene acted as Team Leader for Engineering without Borders ICL Society and has also worked in laboratories across the world from the UK to Singapore.
“Intelligent wound healing is set to change how we view modern injury treatment, but there are many obstacles to its current rollout. Taking the active healing agents directly from the patient’s body and driving them towards the point of need will help eliminate many of these obstacles and improve healthcare outcomes globally.”