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The non-viral delivery of nucleic acids faces many extracellular and intracellular hurdles on the way from injection site to the site of action. Among these, aggregation in the blood stream and rapid elimination by the mononuclear phagocytic system (MPS) represent strong obstacles towards successful development of these promising therapeutic modalities. Even the state-of-the-art solutions using PEGylation show low transfection efficiency due to limited uptake and hindered endosomal escape. Engineering the carriers with sheddable coats reduces aggregation and phagocytosis due to the effective shielding, while the controlled deshielding at the desired site of action enhances the uptake and intracellular release. This work reports for the first time the use of hydroxyethyl starch (HES) for the controlled shielding/deshielding of polyplexes. HES, with different molar masses, was grafted to polyethylenimine (PEI) and characterized using (1)H NMR, colorimetric copper-assay, and SEC. HES-PEI conjugates were used to generate polyplexes with the luciferase-expressing plasmid DNA pCMVluc, and were characterized by DLS and zeta potential measurements. Deshielding was tested in vitro by zeta potential measurements and, erythrocyte aggregation assay upon addition of α-amylase (AA) to the HES-decorated particles. The addition of AA led to gradual increase in the zeta potential of the nanoparticles over 0.5 to 1h and to a higher aggregation tendency for erythrocytes due to the degradation of the HES-coat and exposure of the polyplexes' positive charge. In vitro transfection experiments were conducted in 2 cell-lines±AA in the culture medium. The amylase-treated HES-decorated complexes showed up to 2 orders of magnitude higher transfection levels compared to the untreated HES-shielded particles, while AA had no effect on the transfection of PEG-coated or uncoated polyplexes. Finally, flow cytometry showed that the addition of AA increased the amount of delivered DNA per cell for the HES-shielded polyplexes. This study shows that decorating nanoparticles with HES can be a promising tool for the controlled shielding/deshielding of polyplexes. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Matthäus Noga, Daniel Edinger, Wolfgang Rödl, Ernst Wagner, Gerhard Winter, Ahmed Besheer. Controlled shielding and deshielding of gene delivery polyplexes using hydroxyethyl starch (HES) and alpha-amylase. Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society. 2012 Apr 10;159(1):92-103

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PMID: 22269664

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