Great minds collaborate on new RNAi approach to inflammation

A high profile team of scientists, including MIT's Robert Langer, investigators for Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam, as well as scientists from the Massachusetts General Hospital collaborated on a new project to show how the right small interfering RNA molecule delivered to just the right target could block the damaging inflammatory process associated with heart attacks, cancer and other major conditions. And they provided preclinical proof of concept data from an animal study.

Senior author Matthias Nahrendorf of the MGH Center for Systems Biology notes there are two subsets of monocytes--one that promotes healing and another that inflicts damage. When a heart attack, for example, inflicts cell damage, cytokines draw immune cells to the site, with the CCR2 protein playing a key role in delivering the inflammatory monocytes that do damage. Their siRNA molecule interfered with that process. And the team produced confirmatory data in a mouse model, which demonstrated reduced muscle damage from a heart attack.

"These inflammatory monocytes are involved in almost every major disease," Nahrendorf explains. "Anti-inflammatory drugs currently on the market hit every inflammatory cell in the body, which can produce unwanted side effects. This new siRNA treatment doesn't affect inflammatory cells that don't rely on the CCCR2 receptor. That makes a big difference."

Interestingly, Langer's BIND BioSciences, a 2008 Fierce 15 winner, uses its bioengineering nanotechnology expertise to deliver precise amounts of cancer drugs to a specific cellular target.

- here's the release