Molecular medicine involves applying knowledge about the molecular basis of disease and how new clinical practices can be brought to bear. It includes practices, such as interventions on the cellular and/or DNA level including genetic and cellular therapies, and incorporating new understanding, such as those that have grown out of studying the posttranslational modification of proteins. It often makes reference to such specialties as genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics.
The tiny factors that are mostly widely known as being manipulated in the practice of molecular medicine are genes and DNA. There is hope that studying genomic medicine will enable the knowledge gained to be put into practice preventively and personally, providing individually designed solutions to medical issues. Nevertheless, this does not represent the entire breadth of the field. Other factors that are involved in molecular medicine include antibiotics, carbohydrates, enzymes, hormones, inorganic polymers, lipids, metals, synthetic organic polymers, viruses, and vitamins.
A recent report on the use of nanoparticles of gold help clarify what molecular medicine is and what it can and may be able to do. The therapy involving the gold turns around the discovery of the capabilities of siRNA (“short interfering” RNA), a ribonucleic acid with the ability to “turn off” specifically targeted genes. They do this, as their name suggests, by interfering with the messenger RNA that is sent by a gene to create a protein.
The problem has been that first, introducing the necessary quantities of siRNA into human cells and also keeping it from being broken down before it could act have been insurmountable obstacles. Gold nanoparticles have now been proven to be able to carry siRNA into cultures of human cells by the work of a team at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They found that using gold nanoparticles to deliver the siRNA, rather than introducing it alone substantially increased its lifetime. Additionally, the siRNA delivered with the gold nanoparticles was twice as effective in reducing the activity of the cells to which they were added as siRNA alone was.
The next step will be to test the technique in living bodies, because what works in a culture does not necessarily translate. The hope is that this type of technique will be able to be used to “turn off” targeted genes, thus disabling viruses such as HIV-AIDS, as well as disabling human genes that have been linked by the Human Genome Project to disorders and diseases, such as cancer.