A UConn researcher is using nanoscience to better target therapeutic drugs to specific cells and thereby reduce harmful side effects.

Jessica Rouge, assistant professor of chemistry, and her research team are developing aptamers (oligonucleotide or peptide molecules that bind to a specific target molecule) that can aid the application of therapeutic oligonucleotides, in the form of DNA or RNA that can enter cells and repair over- or under-expressed protein levels.

By using aptamers, the nanoparticles can hone in on and bind to specific proteins or cell receptors. The hope is that by using aptamers, only cells or proteins that are damaged or diseased would receive the drugs, leaving healthy, normal tissues untouched, and therefore greatly reducing side effects.