Biodegradable polymers as non-viral carriers for plasmid DNA delivery

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Gene therapy holds a great promise for the treatment of acquired and inherited diseases with a genetic origin that are currently incurable. Non-viral gene delivery systems are gaining recognition as an alternative to viral gene vectors for their potential in avoiding immunogenicity and toxicity problems inherently associated with the use of viral systems. Many cationic polymers have been studied both in vitro and in vivo for gene delivery purposes. However, in recent years there has been a focus on biodegradable carrier systems. The potential advantage of biodegradable carriers as compared to their non-degradable counterparts is their reduced toxicity and the avoidance of accumulation of the polymer in the cells after repeated administration. Also, the degradation of the polymer can be used as a tool to release the plasmid DNA into the cytosol. In this article the recent results obtained with two classes of degradable gene delivery systems, namely those based on water-soluble cationic polymers and on micro- and nanoparticles will be summarized and discussed.

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