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​The series Topics in Current Chemistry Collections presents critical reviews from the journal Topics in Current Chemistry organized in topical volumes. The scope of coverage is all areas of chemical science including the interfaces with related disciplines such as biology, medicine and materials science. The goal of each thematic volume is to give the non-specialist reader, whether in academia or industry, a comprehensive insight into an area where new research is emerging which is of interest to a larger scientific audience.

Each review within the volume critically surveys one aspect of that topic and places it within the context of the volume as a whole. The most significant developments of the last 5 to 10 years are presented using selected examples to illustrate the principles discussed. The coverage is not intended to be an exhaustive summary of the field or include large quantities of data, but should rather be conceptual, concentrating on the methodological thinking that will allow the non-specialist reader to understand the information presented. Contributions also offer an outlook on potential future developments in the field.

The chapter "Polymeric Nanoparticle-Mediated Gene Delivery for Lung Cancer Treatment" is available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License via



History of Polymeric Gene Delivery Systems

As an option for genetic disease treatment and an alternative for traditional cancer chemotherapy, gene therapy achieves significant attention. Nucleic acid delivery, however, remains a main challenge in human gene therapy. Polymerbased delivery systems offer a safer and promising route for therapeutic gene delivery. Over the past five decades, various cationic polymers have been optimized for increasingly effective nucleic acid transfer. This resulted in a chemical evolution of cationic polymers from the first-generation polycations towards bioinspired multifunctional sequence-defined polymers and nanocomposites. With the increasing of knowledge in molecular biological processes and rapid progress of macromolecular chemistry, further improvement of polymeric nucleic acid delivery systems will provide effective tool for gene-based therapy in the near future.

Peng Zhang, Ernst Wagner

Polymer–Nucleic Acid Interactions

Gene therapy is an important therapeutic strategy in the treatment of a wide range of genetic disorders. Polymers forming stable complexes with nucleic acids (NAs) are non-viral gene carriers. The self-assembly of polymers and nucleic acids is typically a complex process that involves many types of interaction at different scales. Electrostatic interaction, hydrophobic interaction, and hydrogen bonds are three important and prevalent interactions in the polymer/nucleic acid system. Electrostatic interactions and hydrogen bonds are themain driving forces for the condensation of nucleic acids, while hydrophobic interactions play a significant role in the cellular uptake and endosomal escape of polymer-nucleic acid complexes. To design high-efficiency polymer candidates for the DNA and siRNA delivery, it is necessary to have a detailed understanding of the interactions between them in solution. In this chapter, we survey the roles of the three important interactions between polymers and nucleic acids during the formation of polyplexes and summarize recent understandings of the linear polyelectrolyte–NA interactions and dendrimer–NAinteractions. We also reviewrecent progress optimizing the gene delivery system by tuning these interactions.

Zhuang-lin Shen, Yi-qi Xia, Qiu-song Yang, Wen-de Tian, Kang Chen, Yu-qiang Ma

Polysaccharide-based Nanoparticles for Gene Delivery

Nanoparticles based on nanotechnology and biotechnology have emerged as efficient carriers for various biopharmaceutical agents including proteins and genes. In particular, polysaccharides have attracted interest of many researchers in the drug delivery field due to their advantages such as biocompatibility, biodegradability, low toxicity, and ease of modification. A number of polysaccharides including chitosan, hyaluronic acid, and dextran, and their derivatives have been widely used as polymeric backbones for the formation of nanoparticles, which can be provided as valuable gene delivery carriers. In this review, we introduce the chemical and physical natures of different polysaccharides particularly used in biomedical applications, and then discuss recent progress in the development of polysaccharide-based nanoparticles for gene delivery.

Myung Sook Huh, Eun Jung Lee, Heebeom Koo, Ji Young Yhee, Keun Sang Oh, Sohee Son, Sojin Lee, Sun Hwa Kim, Ick Chan Kwon, Kwangmeyung Kim

Peptide-Based and Polypeptide-Based Gene Delivery Systems

Peptide-based and polypeptide-based gene carriers are emerging as the most potentially useful agents in the field of gene therapy. Here we summarize the methods used for the preparation of peptides and polypeptides, address the primary types of peptide-based gene delivery systems, demonstrate their applications in gene therapy, and attempt to propose possible future directions in the development of peptide-based and polypeptide-based gene carriers for specific applications.

Jie Chen, Xiuwen Guan, Yingying Hu, Huayu Tian, Xuesi Chen

Degradable Polyethylenimine-Based Gene Carriers for Cancer Therapy

Gene therapy using recombinant DNA or gene silencing using siRNA have become a prominent area of research in cancer therapy. However, their use in clinical applications is limited due to overall safety concerns and suboptimal efficacy. Although non-viral vectors such as polycationic polymers do not offer the same level of transfection efficiency as their viral counterparts, they still demonstrate immense potential as alternatives to viral vectors, given their versatility, low immunogenicity, ease of large-scale production, and ability to accelerate gene transfer with well-designed delivery platforms. Among these polymers, polyethylenimine (PEI) is considered a state-of-the-art gene carrier, owing to its ability to improve gene transfer capacity and intracellular delivery. Nonetheless, PEI suffers from the critical shortcoming of non-degradability that can lead to severe cytotoxic effects, despite the fact that the level of this toxicity decreases with molecular weight (MW). As a result, a considerable amount of effort has been devoted to designing low-MW PEI derivatives with degradable linkages. This review will categorize the recent advances in these degradable PEI derivatives based on their degradable chemistries, including ester, disulfide, imine, carbamate, amide, and ketal linkages, and summarize their application in gene therapies against various major cancer malignancies.

Hu-Lin Jiang, Mohammad Ariful Islam, Lei Xing, Jannatul Firdous, Wuji Cao, Yu-Jing He, Yong Zhu, Ki-Hyun Cho, Hui-Shan Li, Chong-Su Cho

Precisely Defined Polymers for Efficient Gene Delivery

Gene therapy requires successful delivery of therapeutic nucleic acids into target cells; thus, efficient and safe gene delivery carriers are crucial to its success. Although many polymeric materials have shown their potential as effective nucleic acid carriers, the inherent heterogeneity and polydispersity of these polymers hinder their application in clinical studies because of difficulties in their further precise modification, structure–activity relationship study, as well as consistent manufacturing. Therefore, precisely defined polymers, with potential for sitespecific optimization according to structure–activity relationship information and highly controllable production, have been extensively investigated. In this review, we focus on the design and development of precisely defined polymers for efficient gene delivery, illustrated with examples including dendrimers, peptide-based polymers, and sequence-defined oligoaminoamide oligomers.

Dongsheng He, Hao Lin, Yinglan Yu, Lei Shi, Jiasheng Tu

Stimuli-Responsive Polymeric Nanocarriers for Efficient Gene Delivery

Gene therapy provides an alternative and effective method for treatment of genetic diseases and cancers that are refractory to conventional therapeutics. The success of gene therapy is largely dependent on the development of safe and effective gene delivery vectors for transporting geneticmaterial fromthe blood streamto the cytoplasm or nucleus. Current gene vectors can be divided into viral and non-viral vectors. Although non-viral gene delivery carriers can offer some advantages, such as safety and facile fabrication, they do not possess the same high gene transfection efficiency as viral vectors due to a lack of functionality to overcome extra- and intracellular gene delivery obstacles. On the basis of these disadvantages, researchers are developing ‘‘smart’’ nonviral gene-delivery carriers in order to overcome the physiological barriers and realize efficient gene transfection. These ‘‘smart’’ stimuli-responsive carriers can undergo physical or chemical reactions in response to internal tumor-specific environments, such as pH conditions, redox potentials, enzymatic activations and thermal gradients, as well as external stimulations, such as ultrasound, light, magnetic fields, and electrical fields. Furthermore, ‘‘smart’’ carriers can also be triggered by dual or multiple combinations of different stimuli. In this review, we highlight the recent stimuli-sensitive polymeric nanocarriers for gene delivery, and we discuss the potential of combining multiple stimuli-responsive strategies for future gene therapy applications.

Yingqin Li, Jinbiao Gao, Chao Zhang, Zhong Cao, Du Cheng, Jie Liu, Xintao Shuai

Fabrication of Low-Generation Dendrimers into Nanostructures for Efficient and Nontoxic Gene Delivery

Dendrimers with well-defined molecular structure and high monodispersity have gained tremendous interest in gene delivery. However, current gene carriers based on dendrimers are either not effective or are too toxic on the transfected cells. The efficacy and cytotoxicity of dendrimers are strongly correlated with their molecular weight or generation. High-generation dendrimers are reported with relatively high transfection efficacy but serious cytotoxicity due to the excess positive charges on the polymers, while low-generation dendrimers with minimal toxicity have poor polyplex stability and thus weak transfection efficacy. To break up the correlation between efficacy and toxicity, low-generation dendrimers were fabricated into various nanostructures by several strategies to improve their genebinding capacity, polyplex stability, and transfection efficacy without inducing additional toxicity. In this review article, we will highlight recent advances in the development of assembled dendrimer nanostructures for efficient and non-toxic gene delivery. Specifically, the principles and strategies in the fabrication of dendrimer nanostructures are intensively reviewed.

Hui Wang, Hong Chang, Qiang Zhang, Yiyun Cheng

Open Access

Polymeric Nanoparticle-Mediated Gene Delivery for Lung Cancer Treatment

In recent years, researchers have focused on targeted gene therapy for lung cancer, using nanoparticle carriers to overcome the limitations of conventional treatment methods. The main goal of targeted gene therapy is to develop more efficient therapeutic strategies by improving the bioavailability, stability, and target specificity of gene therapeutics and to reduce off-target effects. Polymer-based nanoparticles, an alternative to lipid and inorganic nanoparticles, efficiently carry nucleic acid therapeutics and are stable in vivo. Receptor-targeted delivery is a promising approach that can limit non-specific gene delivery and can be achieved by modifying the polymer nanoparticle surface with specific receptor ligands or antibodies. This review highlights the recent developments in gene delivery using synthetic and natural polymer-based nucleic acid carriers for lung cancer treatment. Various nanoparticle systems based on polymers and polymer combinations are discussed. Further, examples of targeting ligands or moieties used in targeted, polymer-based gene delivery to lung cancer are reviewed.

Narsireddy Amreddy, Anish Babu, Ranganayaki Muralidharan, Anupama Munshi, Rajagopal Ramesh

Brain-Targeted Polymers for Gene Delivery in the Treatment of Brain Diseases

Gene therapies have become a promising strategy for treating neurological disorders, such as brain cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, with the help of molecular biology interpreting the underlying pathological mechanisms. Successful cellular manipulation against these diseases requires efficient delivery of nucleic acids into brain and further into specific neurons or cancer cells. Compared with viral vectors, non-viral polymeric carriers provide a safer and more flexible way of gene delivery, although suffering from significantly lower transfection efficiency. Researchers have been devoted to solving this defect, which is attributed to the multiple barriers existing for gene therapeutics in vivo, such as systemic degradation, blood–brain barrier, and endosome trapping. This review will be mainly focused on systemically administrated brain-targeted polymers developed so far, including PEI, dendrimers, and synthetic polymers with various functions. We will discuss in detail how they are designed to overcome these barriers and how they efficiently deliver therapeutic nucleic acids into targeted cells.

Yifei Lu, Chen Jiang

Polymers in the Delivery of siRNA for the Treatment of Virus Infections

Viral diseases remain a major cause of death worldwide. Despite advances in vaccine and antiviral drug technology, each year over three million people die from a range of viral infections. Predominant viruses include human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis viruses, and gastrointestinal and respiratory viruses. Now more than ever, robust, easily mobilised and cost-effective antiviral strategies are needed to combat both known and emerging disease threats. RNA interference and small interfering (si)RNAs were initially hailed as a ‘‘magic bullet’’, due to their ability to inhibit the synthesis of any protein via the degradation of its complementary messenger RNA sequence. Of particular interest was the potential for attenuating viral mRNAs contributing to the pathogenesis of disease that were not able to be targeted by vaccines or antiviral drugs. However, it was soon discovered that delivery of active siRNA molecules to the infection site in vivo was considerably more difficult than anticipated, due to a number of physiological barriers in the body. This spurred a new wave of investigation into nucleic acid delivery vehicles which could facilitate safe, targeted and effective administration of the siRNA as therapy. Amongst these, cationic polymer delivery vehicles have emerged as a promising candidate as they are low-cost and easy to produce at an industrial scale, and bind to the siRNA by nonspecific electrostatic interactions. These nanoparticles (NPs) can be functionally designed to target the infection site, improve uptake in infected cells, release the siRNA inside the endosome and facilitate delivery into the cell cytoplasm. They may also have the added benefit of acting as adjuvants. This chapter provides a background around problems associated with the translation of siRNA as antiviral treatments, reviews the progress made in nucleic acid therapeutics and discusses current methods and progress in overcoming these challenges. It also addresses the importance of combining physicochemical characterisation of the NPs with in vitro and in vivo data.

Nicholas Reynolds, Megan Dearnley, Tracey M. Hinton

Polymers in the Co-delivery of siRNA and Anticancer Drugs for the Treatment of Drug-resistant Cancers

Recently, co-delivery of siRNA and anticancer drugs has drawn much attention in the treatment of drug-resistant cancers. Drug resistance is exhibited by cancer cells, which limits the efficacy of chemotherapy. When siRNA and anticancer drugs are delivered into cancer cells simultaneously, the siRNA is expected to silence the genes related to drug resistance, decreasing the drug efflux pumps and activating the cell’s apoptosis pathways. In a timeframe following the release of siRNA, the accumulation of the co-delivered anti-cancer drug inside of the cancer cells will increase, resulting in promoted chemotherapeutic effects. Several classes of nanocarriers have been designed based on polymers for co-delivery, including surface-modified polymer nanoparticles (NPs), polymer micelles, dendrimers, polymer nanocapsules, polymer-modified liposomes, and polymer-modified silica and gold NPs. Compared with separate delivery, co-delivery showed significant advantages in the treatment of drug-resistant cancers. This review focuses on polymers in the co-delivery of siRNA and anticancer drugs, and summarizes key advances in the recent several years.

Haotian Sun, Iven Yarovoy, Meghan Capeling, Chong Cheng
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