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Nearly 30years ago, certain small, relatively nontoxic peptides were discovered to be capable of traversing the cell membrane. These cell-penetrating peptides, as they are now called, have been shown to not only be capable of crossing the cell membrane themselves but can also carry many different therapeutic agents into cells, including small molecules, plasmid DNA, siRNA, therapeutic proteins, viruses, imaging agents, and other various nanoparticles. Many cell-penetrating peptides have been derived from natural proteins, but several other cell-penetrating peptides have been developed that are either chimeric or completely synthetic. How cell-penetrating peptides are internalized into cells has been a topic of debate, with some peptides seemingly entering cells through an endocytic mechanism and others by directly penetrating the cell membrane. Although the entry mechanism is still not entirely understood, it seems to be dependent on the peptide type, the peptide concentration, the cargo the peptide transports, and the cell type tested. With new intracellular disease targets being discovered, cell-penetrating peptides offer an exciting approach for delivering drugs to these intracellular targets. There are hundreds of cell-penetrating peptides being studied for drug delivery, and ongoing studies are demonstrating their success both in vitro and in vivo. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Joshua D Ramsey, Nicholas H Flynn. Cell-penetrating peptides transport therapeutics into cells. Pharmacology & therapeutics. 2015 Oct;154:78-86

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PMID: 26210404

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