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AAPS J. 2005 Apr 8;7(1):E61-77.

DNA-based therapeutics and DNA delivery systems: a comprehensive review.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.


The past several years have witnessed the evolution of gene medicine from an experimental technology into a viable strategy for developing therapeutics for a wide range of human disorders. Numerous prototype DNA-based biopharmaceuticals can now control disease progression by induction and/or inhibition of genes. These potent therapeutics include plasmids containing transgenes, oligonucleotides, aptamers, ribozymes, DNAzymes, and small interfering RNAs. Although only 2 DNA-based pharmaceuticals (an antisense oligonucleotide formulation, Vitravene, (USA, 1998), and an adenoviral gene therapy treatment, Gendicine (China, 2003), have received approval from regulatory agencies; numerous candidates are in advanced stages of human clinical trials. Selection of drugs on the basis of DNA sequence and structure has a reduced potential for toxicity, should result in fewer side effects, and therefore should eventually yield safer drugs than those currently available. These predictions are based on the high selectivity and specificity of such molecules for recognition of their molecular targets. However, poor cellular uptake and rapid in vivo degradation of DNA-based therapeutics necessitate the use of delivery systems to facilitate cellular internalization and preserve their activity. This review discusses the basis of structural design, mode of action, and applications of DNA-based therapeutics. The mechanisms of cellular uptake and intracellular trafficking of DNA-based therapeutics are examined, and the constraints these transport processes impose on the choice of delivery systems are summarized. Finally, the development of some of the most promising currently available DNA delivery platforms is discussed, and the merits and drawbacks of each approach are evaluated.

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