Oligonucleotide conjugates – Candidates for gene silencing therapeutics

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The potential therapeutic and diagnostic applications of oligonucleotides (ONs) have attracted great attention in recent years. The capability of ONs to selectively inhibit target genes through antisense and RNA interference mechanisms, without causing un-intended sideeffects has led them to be investigated for various biomedical applications, especially for the treatment of viral diseases and cancer. In recent years, many researchers have focused on enhancing the stability and target specificity of ONs by encapsulating/complexing them with polymers or lipid chains to formulate nanoparticles/nanocomplexes/micelles. Also, chemical modification of nucleic acids has emerged as an alternative to impart stability to ONs against nucleases and other degrading enzymes and proteins found in blood. In addition to chemically modifying the nucleic acids directly, another strategy that has emerged, involves conjugating polymers/peptide/aptamers/antibodies/proteins, preferably to the sense strand (3′end) of siRNAs. Conjugation to the siRNA not only enhances the stability and targeting specificity of the siRNA, but also allows for the development of self-administering siRNA formulations, with a much smaller size than what is usually observed for nanoparticle (˜200 nm). This review concentrates mainly on approaches and studies involving ON-conjugates for biomedical applications.

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