The use of biodegradable polymers provides a potentially safe and effective alternative to viral and liposomal vectors for the delivery of plasmid DNA to cells for gene therapy applications. In this work we describe the formulation of a novel nanoparticle (NP) system containing a blend of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) and a representative poly(beta-amino) ester (PLGA and PBAE respectively) for use as gene delivery vehicles. Particles of different weight/weight (wt/wt) ratios of the two polymers were characterized for size,morphology, plasmid DNA (pDNA) loading and surface charge. NPs containing PBAE were more effective at cellular internalization and transfection (COS-7 and CFBE41o−) than NPs lacking the PBAE polymer. However, along with these delivery benefits, PBAE exhibited cytotoxic effects that presented an engineering challenge. Surface coating of these blended particleswith the cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs)mTAT, bPrPp andMPG via a PEGylated phospholipid linker (DSPE-PEG2000) resulted in NPs that reduced surface charge and cellular toxicity to levels comparable with NPs formulated with only PLGA. Additionally, these coated nanoparticles showed an improvement in pDNA loading, intracellular uptake and transfection efficiency, when compared to NPs lacking the surface coating. Although all particles with a CPP coating outperformed unmodified NPs, respectively, bPrPp and MPG coating resulted in 3 and 4.5× more pDNA loading than unmodified particles and approximately an order of magnitude improvement on transfection efficiency in CFBE41o− cells. These results demonstrate that surface-modified PBAE containing NPs are a highly effective and minimally toxic platform for pDNA delivery.

This paper was originally published in Journal of Controlled Release (2012) 164, 41-48.

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