Cambridge University Develops Super-sized Nanocage

Researchers at Cambridge University have developed a super-sized nanocage capable of delivering large drug cargoes, with potential applications in drug delivery, biotechnology, and drug discovery.

Nanocages are miniscule artificial containers that can be used to deliver therapeutic drug cargoes to a target destination in the body. Previously, their use has been constrained by the size of the drug molecules being delivered. The larger cages that have been constructed have more open ligand frameworks, making them less useful as they have not been able to bind their cargoes. 

To avoid the challenges inherent in the self-assembly of these types of cages, the team used a simple building block process inspired by natural biological systems. With this new method, they were able to build progressively larger artificial nanocages, with the largest cage having an enclosed volume greater than 92 cubic nanometres — the largest ligand-enclosed inner cavity volume ever made.

“The findings of this study are important because they demonstrate how we are able to create ever-larger complex, functional structures using simple building blocks. Overall, this research expands our understanding of how to create nanoscale structures and may have practical implications in a variety of fields,” stated first author Kai Wu.

The large internal cavities of these super-sized nanocages could also function as a platform for the binding of large biomolecules – such as hydrophobic membrane proteins or proteases – which could be useful in drug discovery and development.

”This work, sponsored in part by Astex Pharmaceuticals under its Sustaining Innovation Postdoctoral Programme, aims to have real-world impact in the field of new drug development,” said Professor Jonathan Nitschke,  the team leader.