Application of Living Free Radical Polymerization for Nucleic Acid Delivery


Therapeutic gene delivery can alter protein function either through the replacement of nonfunctional genes to restore cellular health or through RNA interference (RNAi) to mask mutated and harmful genes. Researchers have investigated a range of nucleic acid-based therapeutics as potential treatments for hereditary, acquired, and infectious diseases. Candidate drugs include plasmids that induce gene expression and small, interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that silence target genes.

Because of their self-assembly with nucleic acids into virus-sized nanoparticles and high transfection efficiency in vitro, cationic polymers have been extensively studied for nucleic acid delivery applications, but toxicity and particle stability have limited the clinical applications of these systems. The advent of living free radical polymerization has improved the quality, control, and reproducibility of these synthesized materials. This process yields well-defined, narrowly disperse materials with designed architectures and molecular weights. As a result, researchers can study the effects of polymer architecture and molecular weight on transfection efficiency and cytotoxicity, which will improve the design of next-generation vectors

.In this Account, we review findings from structure-function studies that have elucidated key design motifs necessary for the development of effective nucleic acid vectors. Researchers have used robust methods such as atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), reverse addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization (RAFT), and ring-opening metastasis polymerization (ROMP) to engineer materials that enhance extracellular stability and cellular specificity and decrease toxicity. In addition, we discuss polymers that are biodegradable, form supramolecular structures, target specific cells, or facilitate endosomal release. Finally, we describe promising materials with a range of in vivo applications from pulmonary gene delivery to DNA vaccines.


Materials Science and Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

free radical; nucleic acid; polymer; small interfering RNA, animal; article; chemistry; genetic transfection; genetics; metabolism; mouse; plasmid; polymerization; RNA interference, Animals; Free Radicals; Mice; Nucleic Acids; Plasmids; Polymerization; Polymers; RNA Interference; RNA, Small Interfering; Transfection

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2012 American Chemical Society (ACS), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jul 2012

PubMed ID