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Mol Ther. 2016 Apr;24(4):779-87. doi: 10.1038/mt.2015.235. Epub 2016 Jan 6.

Smooth Muscle Cell-targeted RNA Aptamer Inhibits Neointimal Formation.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.
Istituto di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale, CNR, Naples, Italy.
Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.


Inhibition of vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation by drug eluting stents has markedly reduced intimal hyperplasia and subsequent in-stent restenosis. However, the effects of antiproliferative drugs on endothelial cells (EC) contribute to delayed re-endothelialization and late stent thrombosis. Cell-targeted therapies to inhibit VSMC remodeling while maintaining EC health are necessary to allow vascular healing while preventing restenosis. We describe an RNA aptamer (Apt 14) that functions as a smart drug by preferentially targeting VSMCs as compared to ECs and other myocytes. Furthermore, Apt 14 inhibits phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase-B (PI3K/Akt) and VSMC migration in response to multiple agonists by a mechanism that involves inhibition of platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR)-β phosphorylation. In a murine model of carotid injury, treatment of vessels with Apt 14 reduces neointimal formation to levels similar to those observed with paclitaxel. Importantly, we confirm that Apt 14 cross-reacts with rodent and human VSMCs, exhibits a half-life of ~300 hours in human serum, and does not elicit immune activation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. We describe a VSMC-targeted RNA aptamer that blocks cell migration and inhibits intimal formation. These findings provide the foundation for the translation of cell-targeted RNA therapeutics to vascular disease.

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