Technion researchers have successfully treated a cancerous tumor from within, using a “nano-factory” — a synthetic cell that produces anti-cancer proteins within the tumor tissue.

Just as human cells can generate a variety of biological molecules, the synthetic cell can produce a wide range of proteins. Synthetic cells’ similarities to natural cells hold vast potential in the production of artificial organs and understanding the origins of life. And as this research shows, they could also be the key to fighting cancer.

Doctoral student Nitzan Krinsky and Assistant Professor Avi Schroeder at the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering at the Technion placed molecular machines inside lipid-based particles that resemble a biological cell’s natural membrane.

When the particles “sense” biological tissue, they produce therapeutic proteins. The particles recruit the energy sources and building blocks needed to continue to survive from the external environment — in this case, the tumor tissue. When the engineered particles reach the tumor, they produce a protein that eradicates the cancer cells.

Changing the code of the integrated DNA template will allow scientists to produce a variety of protein medicines — presenting opportunities to use these synthetic cells beyond cancer care.

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Avi Schroeder
Technion Professor, Avi Schroeder.
Avi Schroeder