SiRNA-mediated in vivo gene knockdown by acid-degradable cationic nanohydrogel particles

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Cationic nanohydrogel particles have become an attractive tool for systemic siRNA delivery, but improvement of their in vivo tolerance is desirable, especially to prevent potential long term side effects by tissue and cellular accumulation. Here, we designed novel ketal cross-linked cationic nanohydrogel particles that were assessed for reduced tissue accumulation and robust siRNA delivery in vitro and in vivo. An oligo-amine cross-linker equipped with a ketal moiety in its core was synthesized and applied to nanohydrogel cross-linking of self-assembled reactive ester block copolymers in DMSO. The resulting acid-sensitive cationic nanoparticles spontaneously disassembled over time in acidic milieu, as investigated by dynamic light scattering. Fluorescent correlation spectroscopy showed effective complexation with siRNA as well as its release upon particle degradation at endosomal pH. These properties resulted in an enhanced in vitro gene knockdown for the acid-degradable cationic nanoparticles compared to their non-degradable spermine analogues. In a murine liver fibrosis model enhanced carrier and payload accumulation in the fibrotic tissue facilitated sequence-specific gene knockdown and prevented fibrosis progression. Long-term monitoring of the carrier in the body showed an enhanced clearance for the acid-degradable carrier, even after multiple dosing. Therefore, these acid-degradable cationic nanohydrogel particles can be considered as promising siRNA carriers for in vivo purposes towards therapeutic applications.

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