Creating a CAD-cure, from the Bottom-up
Usually we CAD in the realm of the very big and boisterous. Cars, tools, dinosaurs – it’s the fun, we-can-see-it stuff. It’s no surprise it’s because we’ve gotten very good at making these things (except the dinosaurs). As manufacturing on the small scale gets better, CAD software catches up. Researchers at Parabon Nanolabs have begun to do just that, creating a CAD program that allows the user to drag-and-drop each individual atom to create custom drugs, and the nano-engineer can count on his 3D model to be crafted exactly as he or she imagined.
Lots of drugs are extremely complicated compounds, designed to bind various cell receptors, interfere with viral or bacterial replication or to help the immune system, among other possible tasks. More often than not, creating these drugs takes a long time, usually via a trial and error process. Ever tried to remove some odd-looking septangular (7-sided) bolt? There isn’t any tools out there to remove it – you have to make your own. The most common approach is to CAD design and manufacture it. The standard approach for a pharmaceutical company is to create thousands upon thousands of versions, and testing each one until the right one is found. Not particular efficient – you might as well take a grinder to the bolt in that case!
The Nano-engineer (someone who works in Nanotechnology, not a very small Engineer) creates a design for a nanostructure in inSēquio Sequence Design Studio, then has it optimized using Parabon’s Opportunistic Evolution algorithms to create the perfect set of sequences. DNA has the remarkable ability to self-assemble into complex structures if each of the base pairs - guanine, cytosine, adenine and thymine - are lined in a particular order. Although used by Nature to encode information, it can be used by the Nano-engineer to create specialized structures to deliver ‘therapeutic compounds’ effectively (antibiotics, painkillers, etc) . Going with our earlier analogy, the nanostructure is the precise, customized tool that delivers the force (the drugs) to remove your odd septangular bolt (the disease).
There are an astounding number of applications. More often than not the treatment for a disease is available, yet directing all the medication to the exact location is the difficulty. According to Parabon, ”some molecules are good at finding cancer cells, while others are good at latching on to cancer cells, while still others are capable of killing cells. Working together as part of a larger molecule, these pieces could prove effective as a cancer treatment.” For example, one possible design combines a toxin and a chemical which ‘makes cancer cells susceptible to that toxin.’ Add a dash of components that guide the drugs away from attacking healthy cells and ‘chemical markers that allow researchers to monitor the drug’s arrival at tumors.’.
The future is CAD – we knew that from the start. CAD medicine? You better believe it. And don’t forget that GrabMED is probably around the corner for your CAD-cure!