How successful is nuclear targeting by nanocarriers?

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The nucleus is ultimately the final target for many therapeutics treating various disorders including cancers, heart dysfunction and brain disorders. Owing to their specialized cell uptake and trafficking mechanisms, nanoparticles (NPs) allow drug targeting where degradation sensitive therapeutics could be delivered to their target tissues and cell in active form and sufficient concentration. However, it has recently become increasingly obvious that cytosolic internalization of a drug molecule does not entail its interaction with its subcellular target and hence careful nanoparticle design and optimization is required to enable nuclear targeting. This review, discusses the barriers to NP nuclear delivery; crossing the cell membrane, endo/lysosomal escape, cytoplasmic trafficking and finally nuclear entry focusing on how NP synthesis and modification could allow for bypassing each of the aforementioned barriers and successfully reaching the nucleus. Examples of nuclear targeted NPs are also discussed, stressing on the critical aspects of nuclear targeting and pointing out how the disease state might change the normal NP path and how such change could be exploited to increase efficiency of nuclear targeting. Finally, the criteria set for the evaluation of nanocarriers for nuclear delivery are discussed highlighting that quantitative rather than qualitative evaluation is required to evaluate how successful nanocarriers for nuclear delivery are, particularly with regards to the amount of drug delivered and released in the nucleus.

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