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1.  Physical Approaches for Nucleic Acid Delivery to Liver 
The AAPS Journal  2008;10(4):589-595.
The liver is a key organ for numerous metabolic pathways and involves many inherited diseases that, although being different in their pathology, are often caused by lack or overproduction of a critical gene product in the diseased cells. In principle, a straightforward method to fix such problem is to introduce into these cells with a gene-coding sequence to provide the missing gene product or with the nucleic acid sequence to inhibit production of the excessive gene product. Practically, however, success of nucleic acid-based pharmaceutics is dependent on the availability of a method capable of delivering nucleic acid sequence in the form of DNA or RNA to liver cells. In this review, we will summarize the progress toward the development of physical methods for nucleic acid delivery to the liver. Emphasis is placed on the mechanism of action, pros, and cons of each method developed so far. We hope the information provided will encourage new endeavor to improve the current methodologies or develop new strategies that will lead to safe and effective delivery of nucleic acids to the liver.
PMCID: PMC2628207  PMID: 19083101
gene delivery; liver; nonviral vectors; physical method; transfection
2.  A novel potent strategy for gene delivery using a single peptide vector as a carrier. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1999;27(17):3510-3517.
We have shown previously that a peptide, MPG, derived from the hydrophobic fusion peptide of HIV-1 gp41 and the hydrophilic nuclear localisation sequence of SV40 large T antigen, can be used as a powerful tool for the delivery of oligonucleotides into cultured cells. Now we extend the potential of MPG to the delivery of nucleic acids into cultured cells. In vitro, MPG interacts strongly with nucleic acids, most likely forming a peptide cage around them, which stabilises and protects them from degradation in cell culture media. MPG is non-cytotoxic, insensitive to serum and efficiently delivers plasmids into several different cell lines in only 1 h. Moreover, MPG enables complete expression of the gene products encoded by the plasmids it delivers into cultured cells. Finally, we have investigated the potential of MPG as an efficient delivery agent for gene therapy, by attempting to deliver antisense nucleic acids targeting an essential cell cycle gene. MPG efficiently delivered a plasmid expressing the full-length antisense cDNA of human cdc25C, which consequently successfully reduced cdc25C expression levels and promoted a block to cell cycle progression. Based on our results, we conclude that MPG is a potent delivery agent for the generalised delivery of nucleic acids as well as of oligonucleotides into cultured cells and believe that its contribution to the development of new gene therapy strategies could be of prime interest.
PMCID: PMC148595  PMID: 10446241
3.  Locked Nucleic Acid Pentamers as Universal PCR Primers for Genomic DNA Amplification 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(11):e3701.
Multiplexing technologies, which allow for simultaneous detection of multiple nucleic acid sequences in a single reaction, can save a lot of time, cost and labor compared to traditional single reaction detection methods. However, the multiplexing method currently used requires precise handiwork and many complicated steps, making a new, simpler technique desirable. Oligonucleotides containing locked nucleic acid residues are an attractive tool because they have strong affinities for their complementary targets, they have been used to avoid dimer formation and mismatch hybridization and to enhance efficient priming. In this study, we aimed to investigate the use of locked nucleic acid pentamers for genomic DNA amplification and multiplex genotyping.
We designed locked nucleic acid pentamers as universal PCR primers for genomic DNA amplification. The locked nucleic acid pentamers were able to prime amplification of the selected sequences within the investigated genomes, and the resulting products were similar in length to those obtained by restriction digest. In Real Time PCR of genomic DNA from three bacterial species, locked nucleic acid pentamers showed high priming efficiencies. Data from bias tests demonstrated that locked nucleic acid pentamers have equal affinities for each of the six genes tested from the Klebsiella pneumoniae genome. Combined with suspension array genotyping, locked nucleic acid pentamer-based PCR amplification was able to identify a total of 15 strains, including 3 species of bacteria, by gene- and species-specific probes. Among the 32 species used in the assay, 28 species and 50 different genes were clearly identified using this method.
As a novel genomic DNA amplification, the use of locked nucleic acid pentamers as universal primer pairs in conjunction with suspension array genotyping, allows for the identification of multiple distinct genes or species with a single amplification procedure. This demonstrates that locked nucleic acid pentamer-based PCR can be utilized extensively in pathogen identification.
PMCID: PMC2577006  PMID: 19002243
4.  Viral genome structures are optimal for capsid assembly 
eLife  2013;2:e00632.
Understanding how virus capsids assemble around their nucleic acid (NA) genomes could promote efforts to block viral propagation or to reengineer capsids for gene therapy applications. We develop a coarse-grained model of capsid proteins and NAs with which we investigate assembly dynamics and thermodynamics. In contrast to recent theoretical models, we find that capsids spontaneously ‘overcharge’; that is, the negative charge of the NA exceeds the positive charge on capsid. When applied to specific viruses, the optimal NA lengths closely correspond to the natural genome lengths. Calculations based on linear polyelectrolytes rather than base-paired NAs underpredict the optimal length, demonstrating the importance of NA structure to capsid assembly. These results suggest that electrostatics, excluded volume, and NA tertiary structure are sufficient to predict assembly thermodynamics and that the ability of viruses to selectively encapsidate their genomic NAs can be explained, at least in part, on a thermodynamic basis.
eLife digest
Viruses are infectious agents made up of proteins and a genome made of DNA or RNA. Upon infecting a host cell, viruses hijack the cell’s gene expression machinery and force it to produce copies of the viral genome and proteins, which then assemble into new viruses that can eventually infect other host cells. Because assembly is an essential step in the viral life cycle, understanding how this process occurs could significantly advance the fight against viral diseases.
In many viral families, a protein shell called a capsid forms around the viral genome during the assembly process. However, capsids can also assemble around nucleic acids in solution, indicating that a host cell is not required for their formation. Since capsid proteins are positively charged, and nucleic acids are negatively charged, electrostatic interactions between the two are thought to have an important role in capsid assembly. However, it is unclear how structural features of the viral genome affect assembly, and why the negative charge on viral genomes is actually far greater than the positive charge on capsids. These questions are difficult to address experimentally because most of the intermediates that form during virus assembly are too short-lived to be imaged.
Here, Perlmutter et al. have used state of the art computational methods and advances in graphical processing units (GPUs) to produce the most realistic model of capsid assembly to date. They showed that the stability of the complex formed between the nucleic acid and the capsid depends on the length of the viral genome. Yield was highest for genomes within a certain range of lengths, and capsids that assembled around longer or shorter genomes tended to be malformed.
Perlmutter et al. also explored how structural features of the virus—including base-pairing between viral nucleic acids, and the size and charge of the capsid—determine the optimal length of the viral genome. When they included structural data from real viruses in their simulations and predicted the optimal lengths for the viral genome, the results were very similar to those seen in existing viruses. This indicates that the structure of the viral genome has been optimized to promote packaging into capsids. Understanding this relationship between structure and packaging will make it easier to develop antiviral agents that thwart or misdirect virus assembly, and could aid the redesign of viruses for use in gene therapy and drug delivery.
PMCID: PMC3683802  PMID: 23795290
virus capsid; self assembly; RNA Packaging; Viruses
5.  Delivery Systems for In Vivo Use of Nucleic Acid Drugs 
Drug Target Insights  2007;2:183-196.
The notorious biotechnological advance of the last few decades has allowed the development of experimental methods for understanding molecular mechanisms of genes and new therapeutic approaches. Gene therapy is maturing into a viable, practical method with the potential to cure a variety of human illnesses. Some nucleic-acid-based drugs are now available for controlling the progression of genetic diseases by inhibiting gene expression or the activity of their gene products. New therapeutic strategies employ a wide range of molecular tools such as bacterial plasmids containing transgenic inserts, RNA interference and aptamers. A nucleic-acid based constitution confers a lower immunogenic potential and as result of the high stringency selection of large molecular variety, these drugs have high affinity and selectivity for their targets. However, nucleic acids have poor biostability thus requiring chemical modifications and delivery systems to maintain their activity and ease their cellular internalization. This review discusses some of the mechanisms of action and the application of therapies based on nucleic acids such as aptamers and RNA interference as well as platforms for cellular uptake and intracellular delivery of therapeutic oligonucleotides and their trade-offs.
PMCID: PMC3155220  PMID: 21901073
aptamers; RNA interference (RNAi); drug delivery systems; nucleic-acid-based drugs
6.  Aptamer-Gated Nanoparticles for Smart Drug Delivery 
Pharmaceuticals  2011;4(8):1137-1157.
Aptamers are functional nucleic acid sequences which can bind specific targets. An artificial combinatorial methodology can identify aptamer sequences for any target molecule, from ions to whole cells. Drug delivery systems seek to increase efficacy and reduce side-effects by concentrating the therapeutic agents at specific disease sites in the body. This is generally achieved by specific targeting of inactivated drug molecules. Aptamers which can bind to various cancer cell types selectively and with high affinity have been exploited in a variety of drug delivery systems for therapeutic purposes. Recent progress in selection of cell-specific aptamers has provided new opportunities in targeted drug delivery. Especially functionalization of nanoparticles with such aptamers has drawn major attention in the biosensor and biomedical areas. Moreover, nucleic acids are recognized as an attractive building materials in nanomachines because of their unique molecular recognition properties and structural features. A active controlled delivery of drugs once targeted to a disease site is a major research challenge. Stimuli-responsive gating is one way of achieving controlled release of nanoparticle cargoes. Recent reports incorporate the structural properties of aptamers in controlled release systems of drug delivering nanoparticles. In this review, the strategies for using functional nucleic acids in creating smart drug delivery devices will be explained. The main focus will be on aptamer-incorporated nanoparticle systems for drug delivery purposes in order to assess the future potential of aptamers in the therapeutic area. Special emphasis will be given to the very recent progress in controlled drug release based on molecular gating achieved with aptamers.
PMCID: PMC4058663
aptamers; nanoparticles; drug delivery; molecular gating; nanovalves
7.  Recent Advances in Non-viral Vectors for Gene Delivery 
Accounts of Chemical Research  2011;45(7):971-979.
Non-viral vectors, typically based on cationic lipids or polymers, are preferred due to safety concerns with viral vectors. So far, non-viral vectors can proficiently transfect cells in culture, but obtaining efficient nanomedicines is far from evident. To overcome the hurdles associated with non-viral vectors is significant for improving delivery efficiency and therapeutic effect of nucleic acid. The drawbacks include the strong interaction of cationic delivery vehicles with blood components, uptake by the reticuloendothelial system (RES), toxicity, targeting ability of the carriers to the cells of interest, and so on. PEGylation is the predominant method used to reduce the binding of plasma proteins with non-viral vectors and minimize the clearance by RES after intravenous administration. The nanoparticles that are not rapidly cleared from the circulation accumulate in the tumors due to the enhanced permeability and retention effect, and the targeting ligands attached to the distal end of the PEGylated components allow binding to the receptors on the target cell surface. Neutral or anionic liposomes have been also developed for systemic delivery of nucleic acids in experimental animal model. Designing and synthesizing novel cationic lipids and polymers, and binding nucleic acid with peptides, targeting ligands, polymers, or environmentally sensitive moieties also attract many attentions for resolving the problems encountered by non-viral vectors. The application of inorganic nanoparticles in nucleic acid delivery is an emerging field, too.
Recently, different classes of non-viral vectors appear to be converging and the features of different classes of non-viral vectors could be combined in one strategy. More hurdles associated with efficient nucleic acid delivery therefore might be expected to be overcome.
In this account, we will focus on these novel non-viral vectors, which are classified into multifunctional hybrid nucleic acid vectors, novel membrane/core nanoparticles for nucleic acid delivery and ultrasound-responsive nucleic acid vectors. The systemic delivery studies are highlighted. Finally, we bring forward the prospect for nucleic acid delivery. We think a better understandings of the fate of the nanoparticles inside the cell and of the interactions between the parts of hybrid particles will lead to a delivery system suitable for clinical use. We also underscore the value of sustained release of nucleic acid and presume making vectors targeted to cells with sustained release in vivo should be an interesting research challenge.
PMCID: PMC3240701  PMID: 21870813
non-viral vectors; gene delivery; liposome
8.  Ligand Binding and Hydration in Protein Misfolding: Insights from Studies of Prion and p53 Tumor Suppressor Proteins† 
Accounts of Chemical Research  2009;43(2):271-279.
Protein misfolding has been implicated in a large number of diseases termed protein- folding disorders (PFDs), which include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, familial amyloid polyneuropathy, Huntington’s disease, and type II diabetes. In these diseases, large quantities of incorrectly folded proteins undergo aggregation, destroying brain cells and other tissues.
The interplay between ligand binding and hydration is an important component of the formation of misfolded protein species. Hydration drives various biological processes, including protein folding, ligand binding, macromolecular assembly, enzyme kinetics, and signal transduction. The changes in hydration and packing, both when proteins fold correctly or when folding goes wrong, leading to PFDs, are examined through several biochemical, biophysical, and structural approaches. Although in many cases the binding of a ligand such as a nucleic acid helps to prevent misfolding and aggregation, there are several examples in which ligands induce misfolding and assembly into amyloids. This occurs simply because the formation of structured aggregates (such as protofibrillar and fibrillar amyloids) involves decreases in hydration, formation of a hydrogen-bond network in the secondary structure, and burying of nonpolar amino acid residues, processes that also occur in the normal folding landscape. In this Account, we describe the present knowledge of the folding and misfolding of different proteins, with a detailed emphasis on mammalian prion protein (PrP) and tumoral suppressor protein p53; we also explore how ligand binding and hydration together influence the fate of the proteins.
Anfinsen’s paradigm that the structure of a protein is determined by its amino acid sequence is to some extent contradicted by the observation that there are two isoforms of the prion protein with the same sequence: the cellular and the misfolded isoform. The cellular isoform of PrP has a disordered N-terminal domain and a highly flexible, not-well-packed C-terminal domain, which might account for its significant hydration. When PrP binds to biological molecules, such as glycosaminoglycans and nucleic acids, the disordered segments appear to fold and become less hydrated. Formation of the PrP−nucleic acid complex seems to accelerate the conversion of the cellular form of the protein into the disease-causing isoform. For p53, binding to some ligands, including nucleic acids, would prevent misfolding of the protein. Recently, several groups have begun to analyze the folding−misfolding of the individual domains of p53, but several questions remain unanswered. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the productive and incorrect folding pathways of these proteins in normal physiological states and in human disease, such as prion disorders and cancer. These studies are shown to lay the groundwork for the development of new drugs.
PMCID: PMC2825094  PMID: 19817406
9.  Nucleic acid delivery: the missing pieces of the puzzle? 
Accounts of Chemical Research  2012;45(7):1153-1162.
The ability of gene or RNA interference (RNAi) delivery to increase or decrease virtually any protein in a cell opens the path for cures to most diseases that afflict humans. However, their high molecular weight, anionic nature, and instability in the presence of enzymes, pose major obstacles to nucleic acid delivery and frustrates their use as human therapies.
This Account describes current ideas on the mechanisms in non-viral nucleic acid delivery and how lipidic and polymeric carriers overcome some of the critical barriers to delivery. A multitude of polymeric and lipidic vectors have been developed over the last 20 years, only a small fraction of them have progressed into clinical trials. Given that none of these vectors has received FDA approval, indicates that the current vectors do not yet have suitable properties for effective in vivo nucleic acid delivery.
Nucleic acid delivery is a multistep process and inefficiencies at any stage result in a dramatic decrease in gene delivery or gene silencing. Despite this, the majority of studies investigating synthetic vectors focus solely on optimization of endosomal escape. A small number of studies address how to improve uptake via targeted delivery. A smaller fraction examine the intracellular fate of the delivery systems and nucleic acid cargo. The internalization of genes into the cell nucleus remains an inefficient and mysterious process. In the case of DNA delivery, strategies to increase and accelerate the migration of DNA through the cytoplasm and transport it through the nuclear membrane are required.
The barriers to siRNA delivery are fewer: siRNA is more readily released from the carrier, siRNA is more resistant to enzymatic degradation and the target is in the cytoplasm; hence, siRNA delivery systems are becoming a clinical reality. With regard to siRNA therapy, the exact cytoplasmic location of RISC formation and activity is unknown. This makes specific targeting of the RISC for more efficient siRNA delivery difficult. Furthermore, identifying the factors favoring the binding of siRNA to Ago-2 and understanding how the half-life of siRNA and Ago-2/siRNA complex in the cytoplasm can be modulated without interfering with RISC functions that are essential for normal cell activity could increase siRNA delivery efficiency.
In this manuscript we concisely review the current synthetic vectors and for a few of these, propose alternative strategies. We suggest how certain cellular mechanisms might be exploited to improve gene transfection and silencing. Finally, we raise the question if some carriers are delivering the siRNA to cells capable of repackaging the siRNA into exosomes. The exosomes would then transport the siRNA into a subsequent population of cells where the siRNA effect is manifest. This piggy-back mechanism may be responsible for reported deep tissue siRNA effects using certain carriers.
PMCID: PMC3399092  PMID: 22428908
Oligonucleotides  2007;17(4):349-404.
Liver fibrosis results from chronic liver injury due to hepatitis B and C, excessive alcohol ingestion, and metal ion overload. Fibrosis culminates in cirrhosis and results in liver failure. Therefore, a potent antifibrotic therapy is in urgent need to reverse scarring and eliminate progression to cirrhosis. Although activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) remains the principle cell type responsible for liver fibrosis, perivascular fibroblasts of portal and central veins as well as periductular fibroblasts are other sources of fibrogenic cells. This review will critically discuss various treatment strategies for liver fibrosis, including prevention of liver injury, reduction of inflammation, inhibition of HSC activation, degradation of scar matrix, and inhibition of aberrant collagen synthesis. Oligonucleotides (ODNs) are short, single-stranded nucleic acids, which disrupt expression of target protein by binding to complementary mRNA or forming triplex with genomic DNA. Triplex forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) provide an attractive strategy for treating liver fibrosis. A series of TFOs have been developed for inhibiting the transcription of α1(I) collagen gene, which opens a new area for antifibrotic drugs. There will be in depth discussion on the use of TFOs and how different bioconjugation strategies can be utilized for their site-specific delivery to HSCs or hepatocytes for enhanced antifibrotic activities. Various insights developed in individual strategy and the need for multipronged approaches will also be discussed.
PMCID: PMC2777659  PMID: 18154454
11.  Nanoparticle for delivery of antisense γPNA oligomers targeting CCR5 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2013;4(2):49-57.
The development of a new class of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), i.e., gamma PNAs (γPNAs), creates the need for a general and effective method for its delivery into cells for regulating gene expression in mammalian cells. Here we report the antisense activity of a recently developed hydrophilic and biocompatible diethylene glycol (miniPEG)-based gamma peptide nucleic acid called MPγPNAs via its delivery by poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA)-based nanoparticle system. We show that MPγPNA oligomers designed to bind to the selective region of Chemokine Receptor 5 (CCR5) transcript, induce potent and sequence-specific antisense effects as compared with regular PNA oligomers. In addition, PLGA nanoparticle delivery of MPγPNAs is not toxic to the cells. The findings reported in this study provide a combination of γPNA technology and PLGA-based nanoparticle delivery method for regulating gene expression in live cells via the antisense mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3771998  PMID: 23954968
CCR5; PEG; PNA; antisense; nanoparticle; γPNA
12.  Fialuridine Induces Acute Liver Failure in Chimeric TK-NOG Mice: A Model for Detecting Hepatic Drug Toxicity Prior to Human Testing 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001628.
Gary Peltz, Jeffrey Glenn, and colleagues report that a pre-clinical mouse toxicology model can detect liver toxicity of a drug that caused liver failure in several early clinical trial participants in 1993.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Seven of 15 clinical trial participants treated with a nucleoside analogue (fialuridine [FIAU]) developed acute liver failure. Five treated participants died, and two required a liver transplant. Preclinical toxicology studies in mice, rats, dogs, and primates did not provide any indication that FIAU would be hepatotoxic in humans. Therefore, we investigated whether FIAU-induced liver toxicity could be detected in chimeric TK-NOG mice with humanized livers.
Methods and Findings
Control and chimeric TK-NOG mice with humanized livers were treated orally with FIAU 400, 100, 25, or 2.5 mg/kg/d. The response to drug treatment was evaluated by measuring plasma lactate and liver enzymes, by assessing liver histology, and by electron microscopy. After treatment with FIAU 400 mg/kg/d for 4 d, chimeric mice developed clinical and serologic evidence of liver failure and lactic acidosis. Analysis of liver tissue revealed steatosis in regions with human, but not mouse, hepatocytes. Electron micrographs revealed lipid and mitochondrial abnormalities in the human hepatocytes in FIAU-treated chimeric mice. Dose-dependent liver toxicity was detected in chimeric mice treated with FIAU 100, 25, or 2.5 mg/kg/d for 14 d. Liver toxicity did not develop in control mice that were treated with the same FIAU doses for 14 d. In contrast, treatment with another nucleotide analogue (sofosbuvir 440 or 44 mg/kg/d po) for 14 d, which did not cause liver toxicity in human trial participants, did not cause liver toxicity in mice with humanized livers.
FIAU-induced liver toxicity could be readily detected using chimeric TK-NOG mice with humanized livers, even when the mice were treated with a FIAU dose that was only 10-fold above the dose used in human participants. The clinical features, laboratory abnormalities, liver histology, and ultra-structural changes observed in FIAU-treated chimeric mice mirrored those of FIAU-treated human participants. The use of chimeric mice in preclinical toxicology studies could improve the safety of candidate medications selected for testing in human participants.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Before new drugs are approved for clinical use, they undergo extensive preclinical (laboratory-based) and clinical testing. In the preclinical studies, scientists investigate the causes of diseases, identify potential new drugs, and test promising drug candidates in animals. Animal testing is performed to determine whether the new drug is likely to work, and to screen for drug-induced toxicity. In preclinical toxicology studies, new drugs are given to two or more animal species to find out whether the drug has any short- or long-term toxic effects such as damage to the liver (hepatotoxicity). Drugs that pass these animal tests enter clinical trials. Phase I clinical trials test new drugs in a handful of healthy volunteers or patients to evaluate their safety and to identify possible side effects. In phase II trials, a larger group of patients receives the new drug to evaluate its safety further and to get an initial idea of its effectiveness. Finally, in phase III trials, very large groups of patients are randomly assigned to receive the new drug or an established treatment for their disease. These randomized controlled trials provide detailed information about the effectiveness and safety of a candidate drug, and must be completed before a drug can be approved for clinical use.
Why Was This Study Done?
Since animals are not perfect models for people, candidate drugs can cause toxicities in clinical trials that were not predicted by preclinical toxicology testing performed using animal species. For example, in 1993, 15 participants in a phase II trial were given a nucleoside analogue called fialuridine to treat hepatitis B virus infection (nucleoside analogues often have antiviral activity). Seven participants developed liver failure and lactic acidosis (buildup of lactic acid in the blood). Analysis of liver tissue from the affected participants revealed steatosis (fatty degeneration), intracellular fat droplets, and swollen mitochondria (these organelles are the powerhouses of the cell). Five participants subsequently died, and two had to have a liver transplant. In preclinical toxicology testing in mice, rats, dogs, and primates, there had been no indications that fialuridine would be hepatotoxic in people. It now seems that the expression of a nucleoside transporter in the mitochondria of humans but not of other animals may underlie the human-specific mitochondrial toxicity and hepatotoxicity of fialuridine. With several other nucleoside analogues in development, a better screening tool for human-specific mitochondrial toxicity is needed. In this study, the researchers investigate whether fialuridine toxicity can be detected in TK-NOG mice with chimeric (humanized) livers. TK-NOG mice are immunodeficient mice that have been genetically engineered so that human liver cells (hepatocytes) transplanted into these animals establish a long-lived mature “human organ.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers treated chimeric (with transplanted human liver cells) and control (without transplanted human liver cells) TK-NOG mice with several doses of fialuridine. After treatment with the highest dose (1,600-fold above the dose used in the phase II trial) for four days, the chimeric mice developed liver failure and lactic acidosis. Moreover, steatosis and lipid and mitochondrial abnormalities developed in the regions of their livers that contained human hepatocytes but not in regions that contained mouse hepatocytes. Notably, the control mice had not developed liver toxicity after 14 days of treatment with the highest dose of drug. Liver toxicity was also easily detectable in chimeric mice that had been treated for 14 days with a fialuridine dose only 10-fold above that used in the human trial. Treatment with another nucleoside analogue that does not cause liver toxicity in people did not cause liver toxicity in the chimeric mice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that fialuridine-induced liver toxicity can be readily detected using TK-NOG mice that have humanized livers at drug doses only 10-fold higher than those that caused liver failure in the phase II trial. Although the liver toxicity developed much more quickly in these mice than in the human trial participants, the clinical features, laboratory abnormalities, and structural changes seen in the fialuridine-treated chimeric TK-NOG mice closely mirrored those seen in fialuridine-treated people. The use of TK-NOG mice containing humanized livers in toxicology testing will not reveal whether drugs have human-specific toxicities outside the liver. Since they are highly immunocompromised, chimeric TK-NOG mice cannot be used to detect immune-mediated drug toxicities. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the use of chimeric mice in toxicology studies could help improve the safety of candidate drugs that are tested in humans.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US Food and Drug Administration, the body that approves drugs for clinical use in the US, provides an overview for patients about the drug development process from the laboratory to the clinic
The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) provides more detailed information for patients and the public about the drug development process, including a section on preclinical research, which includes information on animal testing
The US National Institutes of Health provides information about clinical trials, including personal stories from people who have taken part in clinical trials
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information for patients about clinical trials and medical research, including personal stories about participation in clinical trials
Understanding Animal Research is a UK advocacy group that provides information about the importance of animal research to the public, teachers, scientists, journalists, and policy makers
Wikipedia has a page on animal testing (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3988005  PMID: 24736310
13.  Oxidative Stress and Nucleic Acid Oxidation in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease 
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have high cardiovascular mortality and morbidity and a high risk for developing malignancy. Excessive oxidative stress is thought to play a major role in elevating these risks by increasing oxidative nucleic acid damage. Oxidative stress results from an imbalance between reactive oxygen/nitrogen species (RONS) production and antioxidant defense mechanisms and can cause vascular and tissue injuries as well as nucleic acid damage in CKD patients. The increased production of RONS, impaired nonenzymatic or enzymatic antioxidant defense mechanisms, and other risk factors including gene polymorphisms, uremic toxins (indoxyl sulfate), deficiency of arylesterase/paraoxonase, hyperhomocysteinemia, dialysis-associated membrane bioincompatibility, and endotoxin in patients with CKD can inhibit normal cell function by damaging cell lipids, arachidonic acid derivatives, carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, and nucleic acids. Several clinical biomarkers and techniques have been used to detect the antioxidant status and oxidative stress/oxidative nucleic acid damage associated with long-term complications such as inflammation, atherosclerosis, amyloidosis, and malignancy in CKD patients. Antioxidant therapies have been studied to reduce the oxidative stress and nucleic acid oxidation in patients with CKD, including alpha-tocopherol, N-acetylcysteine, ascorbic acid, glutathione, folic acid, bardoxolone methyl, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor, and providing better dialysis strategies. This paper provides an overview of radical production, antioxidant defence, pathogenesis and biomarkers of oxidative stress in patients with CKD, and possible antioxidant therapies.
PMCID: PMC3766569  PMID: 24058721
14.  Design and application of cotranscriptional non-enzymatic RNA circuits and signal transducers 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(7):e58.
Nucleic acid circuits are finding increasing real-life applications in diagnostics and synthetic biology. Although DNA has been the main operator in most nucleic acid circuits, transcriptionally produced RNA circuits could provide powerful alternatives for reagent production and their use in cells. Towards these goals, we have implemented a particular nucleic acid circuit, catalytic hairpin assembly, using RNA for both information storage and processing. Our results demonstrated that the design principles developed for DNA circuits could be readily translated to engineering RNA circuits that operated with similar kinetics and sensitivities of detection. Not only could purified RNA hairpins perform amplification reactions but RNA hairpins transcribed in vitro also mediated amplification, even without purification. Moreover, we could read the results of the non-enzymatic amplification reactions using a fluorescent RNA aptamer ‘Spinach’ that was engineered to undergo sequence-specific conformational changes. These advances were applied to the end-point and real-time detection of the isothermal strand displacement amplification reaction that produces single-stranded DNAs as part of its amplification cycle. We were also able to readily engineer gate structures with RNA similar to those that have previously formed the basis of DNA circuit computations. Taken together, these results validate an entirely new chemistry for the implementation of nucleic acid circuits.
PMCID: PMC3985647  PMID: 24493736
15.  Nucleic Acid Scavenging Polymers Inhibit Extracellular DNA-Mediated Innate Immune Activation without Inhibiting Anti-Viral Responses 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69413.
Toll-like receptor (TLR) family members, 3, 7 and 9 are key components in initiation and progression of autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). These TLRs are often referred to as nucleic acid-sensing TLRs based on their ability to recognize DNAs or RNAs produced by pathogens or damaged cells. During autoimmune disease progression these receptors recognize self nucleic acids as well as self nucleic acid-containing complexes and contribute to inflammatory cytokine production and subsequent enhancement of serum autoantibody levels. We have recently discovered that nucleic-acid scavenging polymers (NASPs) can neutralize the proinflammatory effects of nucleic acids. Here, we begin to explore what effects such NASPs have on normal immune function. We show that such NASPs can inhibit TLR activation without affecting nucleic acid-independent T cell activation. Moreover, we observe that stimulation of immune cells by encapsulated nucleic acids, such as those found in viral particles, is unaffected by NASPs. Thus NASPs only limit the activation of the immune system by accessible extra-cellular nucleic acid and do not engender non-specific immune suppression. These important findings suggest that NASPs represent a new approach toward anti-inflammatory drug development as these agents can potentially be utilized to block overt autoimmune disorders and inflammation while allowing normal immune responses to occur.
PMCID: PMC3720614  PMID: 23936008
16.  Understanding nonviral nucleic acid delivery with quantum dot-FRET nanosensors 
Nanomedicine (London, England)  2012;7(4):565-577.
Nonviral delivery of nucleic acids is a potentially safe and viable therapeutic modality for inherited and acquired diseases. However, current systems have proven too inefficient for widespread clinical translation. The rational design of improved carriers depends on a quantitative, mechanistic understanding of the rate-limiting barriers to efficient intracellular delivery. Separation of the nucleic acid from the carrier is one of the barriers, which may be analyzed by Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), a mechanism used to detect interactions between fluorescently labeled molecules. When applied to the molecular components of polymer or lipid-based nanocomplexes, FRET provides information on their complexation status, uptake, release and degradation. Recently, the design of FRET systems incorporating quantum dots as energy donors has led to improved signal stability, allowing prolonged measurements, as well as increased sensitivity, enabling direct detection and the potential for multiplexing. The union of quantum dots and FRET is providing new insights into the mechanisms of nonviral nucleic acid delivery through convergent characterization of delivery barriers, and has the potential to accelerate the design of improved carriers to realize the potential of nucleic acid therapeutics and gene medicine.
PMCID: PMC3381947  PMID: 22471720
biophotonics; Förster resonance energy transfer; gene delivery; intracellular trafficking; nanomedicine; polyplex; quantum dots; siRNA delivery
17.  Liver Dysfunction and Phosphatidylinositol-3-Kinase Signalling in Early Sepsis: Experimental Studies in Rodent Models of Peritonitis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001338.
Experimental studies in a rat model of fecal peritonitis conducted by Michael Bauer and colleagues show that in this model, changes in liver function occur early in the development of sepsis, with potential implications for prognosis and development of new therapeutic approaches.
Hepatic dysfunction and jaundice are traditionally viewed as late features of sepsis and portend poor outcomes. We hypothesized that changes in liver function occur early in the onset of sepsis, yet pass undetected by standard laboratory tests.
Methods and Findings
In a long-term rat model of faecal peritonitis, biotransformation and hepatobiliary transport were impaired, depending on subsequent disease severity, as early as 6 h after peritoneal contamination. Phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signalling was simultaneously induced at this time point. At 15 h there was hepatocellular accumulation of bilirubin, bile acids, and xenobiotics, with disturbed bile acid conjugation and drug metabolism. Cholestasis was preceded by disruption of the bile acid and organic anion transport machinery at the canalicular pole. Inhibitors of PI3K partially prevented cytokine-induced loss of villi in cultured HepG2 cells. Notably, mice lacking the PI3Kγ gene were protected against cholestasis and impaired bile acid conjugation. This was partially confirmed by an increase in plasma bile acids (e.g., chenodeoxycholic acid [CDCA] and taurodeoxycholic acid [TDCA]) observed in 48 patients on the day severe sepsis was diagnosed; unlike bilirubin (area under the receiver-operating curve: 0.59), these bile acids predicted 28-d mortality with high sensitivity and specificity (area under the receiver-operating curve: CDCA: 0.77; TDCA: 0.72; CDCA+TDCA: 0.87).
Liver dysfunction is an early and commonplace event in the rat model of sepsis studied here; PI3K signalling seems to play a crucial role. All aspects of hepatic biotransformation are affected, with severity relating to subsequent prognosis. Detected changes significantly precede conventional markers and are reflected by early alterations in plasma bile acids. These observations carry important implications for the diagnosis of liver dysfunction and pharmacotherapy in the critically ill. Further clinical work is necessary to extend these concepts into clinical practice.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Sepsis (blood poisoning)—a life-threatening condition caused by an inappropriate immune response to an infection—is a major global cause of death. Normally, when bacteria or other microbes enter the human body, the immune system efficiently destroys the invaders. In sepsis the immune system goes into overdrive, and the chemicals it releases into the blood to combat the infection trigger widespread inflammation (swelling). This leads to the formation of small blood clots and leaky blood vessels that block the flow of blood to vital organs such as the kidneys and liver. In the most severe cases, multiple organs fail and the patient dies. Anyone can get sepsis, but people with weakened immune systems, the very young, and the elderly are most vulnerable. Symptoms of sepsis include fever, chills, rapid breathing, a fast heart rate, and confusion. In its early stages, sepsis can be treated with antibiotics alone, but people with severe sepsis need to be admitted to an intensive care unit where the vital organs can be supported while the infection is treated.
Why Was This Study Done?
Thirty to fifty percent of people who develop severe sepsis die. If sepsis could be diagnosed in its early stages, it might be possible to save more people. Unfortunately, the symptoms of sepsis mimic those of other conditions, and, because sepsis tends to develop very quickly, it is often not diagnosed until it is too late to save the patient's life. The development of liver (hepatic) dysfunction and jaundice are both regarded as late features of sepsis (jaundice is yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by a build-up of bilirubin in the blood). However, the researchers hypothesized that changes in liver function occur early in sepsis and could, therefore, be used to improve the diagnosis and management of sepsis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers induced sepsis in rats by injecting bacteria into the peritoneal cavity (the gap between the abdominal wall and the abdominal organs), separated the infected animals into predicted survivors and non-survivors based on their heart stroke volume measured using cardiac ultrasound, and then examined their liver function. The expression of genes encoding proteins involved in “biotransformation” and “hepatobiliary transport” (the processes that convert waste products and toxic chemicals into substances that can be conjugated to increase solubility and then excreted) was down-regulated within six hours of sepsis induction in the predicted non-survivors compared to the predicted survivors. Functional changes such as bilirubin and bile acid accumulation in the liver (cholestasis), poor excretion of xenobiotics (molecules not usually found in the body such as antibiotics), and disturbed bile acid conjugation were also seen in predicted non-survivors but not in survivors. Moreover, phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signaling (which is involved in several immune processes) increased soon after sepsis induction in non-survivor but not in survivor animals. Notably, mice lacking the PI3Kγ gene did not develop cholestasis or show impaired bile acid conjugation after induction of sepsis. Finally, in human patients, plasma bile acids were increased in 48 patients on the day that severe sepsis was diagnosed, and these increases accurately predicted death in these patients.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that liver dysfunction is an early event in animal models of sepsis and that PI3K signalling plays a crucial role in the development of liver dysfunction. They show that all aspects of liver biotransformation are affected during sepsis and suggest that outcomes are related to the severity of these changes. The limited clinical data included in this study also support the hypothesis that changes in liver function occur early in sepsis, although these data need confirming and extending. Taken together, these findings suggest that liver function tests might aid early diagnosis of sepsis and might also provide information about likely outcomes. They also have important implications for the use of drugs in patients who are critically ill with sepsis, in that some of the drugs routinely administered to such patients may not be adequately detoxified and may, therefore, contribute to organ injury. Finally, these findings suggest that inhibition of PI3Kγ may alleviate sepsis-associated cholestasis.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by John Marshall
The US National Institute of General Medical Sciences has a fact sheet on sepsis
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information about sepsis and about jaundice
The Surviving Sepsis Campaign, which was developed to improve the management, diagnosis, and treatment of sepsis, provides basic information about sepsis
The Sepsis Alliance, a US not-for-profit organization, also provides information about sepsis for patients and their families, including personal stories about sepsis
The not-for profit UK Sepsis Trust is another useful source of information about sepsis that includes patient stories
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about sepsis and jaundice (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3496669  PMID: 23152722
18.  Charge-reversal Lipids, Peptide-based Lipids, and Nucleoside-based Lipids for Gene Delivery 
Accounts of chemical research  2012;45(7):10.1021/ar200228y.
Twenty years after gene therapy was introduced in the clinic, advances in the technique continue to garner headlines as successes pique the interest of clinicians, researchers, and the public. Gene therapy’s appeal stems from its potential to revolutionize modern medical therapeutics by offering solutions to a myriad of diseases by tailoring the treatment to a specific individual’s genetic code. Both viral and non-viral vectors have been used in the clinic, but the low transfection efficiencies when utilizing non-viral vectors have lead to an increased focus on engineering new gene delivery vectors. To address the challenges facing non-viral or synthetic vectors, specifically lipid-based carriers, we have focused on three main themes throughout our research: 1) that releasing the nucleic acid from the carrier will increase gene transfection; 2) that utilizing biologically inspired designs, such as DNA binding proteins, to create lipids with peptide-based headgroups will improve delivery; and 3) that mimicking the natural binding patterns observed within DNA, by using lipids having a nucleoside headgroup, will give unique supramolecular assembles with high transfection efficiency.
The results presented in this Account demonstrate that cellular uptake and transfection efficacy can be improved by engineering the chemical components of the lipid vectors to enhance nucleic acid binding and release kinetics. Specifically, our research has shown that the incorporation of a charge-reversal moiety to initiate change of the lipid from positive to negative net charge during the transfection process improves transfection. In addition, by varying the composition of the spacer (rigid, flexible, short, long, and aromatic) between the cationic headgroup and the hydrophobic chains, lipids can be tailored to interact with different nucleic acids (DNA, RNA, siRNA) and accordingly affect delivery, uptake outcomes, and transfection efficiency. Introduction of a peptide headgroup into the lipid provides a mechanism to affect the binding of the lipid to the nucleic acid, to influence the supramolecular lipoplex structure, and to enhance gene transfection activity. Lastly, we discuss the in-vitro successes we have had when using lipids possessing a nucleoside headgroup to create unique self-assembled structures and to deliver DNA to cells. In this Account, we state our hypotheses and design elements as well as describe the techniques that we have utilized in our research, in order to provide readers with the tools to characterize and engineer new vectors.
PMCID: PMC3878820  PMID: 22439686
19.  Single-molecule tracking of the transcription cycle by sub-second RNA detection 
eLife  2014;3:e01775.
Transcription is an inherently stochastic, noisy, and multi-step process, in which fluctuations at every step can cause variations in RNA synthesis, and affect physiology and differentiation decisions in otherwise identical cells. However, it has been an experimental challenge to directly link the stochastic events at the promoter to transcript production. Here we established a fast fluorescence in situ hybridization (fastFISH) method that takes advantage of intrinsically unstructured nucleic acid sequences to achieve exceptionally fast rates of specific hybridization (∼10e7 M−1s−1), and allows deterministic detection of single nascent transcripts. Using a prototypical RNA polymerase, we demonstrated the use of fastFISH to measure the kinetic rates of promoter escape, elongation, and termination in one assay at the single-molecule level, at sub-second temporal resolution. The principles of fastFISH design can be used to study stochasticity in gene regulation, to select targets for gene silencing, and to design nucleic acid nanostructures.
eLife digest
The body produces proteins by transcribing DNA (genes) to make messenger RNA, which is then translated to make a protein. Transcription begins when an enzyme called RNA polymerase binds to the DNA and catalyzes the process by which genetic information from the double helix is copied to a complementary RNA transcript, which subsequently becomes the messenger RNA.
Because a living cell usually contains only one or a few copies (alleles) of a given gene, molecular fluctuations play a crucial role in cellular transcription. Therefore, studying transcription kinetics at the level of single molecules may provide critical insights into how cells deal with—or even take advantage of—molecular fluctuations. A number of different single-molecule techniques can be used to follow transcription, but these techniques are often relatively slow compared to transcription in living cells, or they suffer from other problems such as only being able to study one step in the transcription process.
Now, Zhang, Revyakin et al. have systematically devised a technique called ‘fastFISH’ that is fast enough to track the production of single RNA molecules directly and instantaneously. FastFISH builds on an existing technique called FISH—short for fluorescence in situ hybridization—in which fluorescent molecules are attached to single strands of DNA or RNA. These single strands pair with specific regions of complementary DNA or RNA molecules, and they can be visualized with a fluorescence microscope. However, conventional FISH is a ‘snap-shot’ technique that is not suitable for making real-time observations under physiological conditions.
FastFISH relies on single strands of fluorescently labeled DNA and RNA that bind to complementary strands of DNA or RNA extremely quickly, even under physiological conditions, because they contain only three of the four ‘regular’ nucleotides that make up DNA or RNA. As a proof of principle, Zhang, Revyakin et al. used fastFISH to study the kinetics of transcription by the bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase and were able to measure multiple stages of the transcription cycle in a single-molecule experimental setup.
By allowing each stage of transcription to be tracked in real-time at the level of single-molecules, fastFISH will permit a more in-depth analysis of the factors that regulate how genes are expressed as proteins in our cells. Moreover, the ability to design single-strand probes that bind rapidly to DNA and RNA targets could have many additional applications, including new strategies for more efficient gene silencing.
PMCID: PMC3901038  PMID: 24473079
single-molecule; real-time; transcription; fluorescence; in situ hybridization; unstructured nucleic acid; E. coli; Viruses
20.  Poly(alkylene oxide) Copolymers for Nucleic Acid Delivery 
Accounts of Chemical Research  2012;45(7):1057-1066.
The advancement of gene-based therapeutics to the clinic is limited by the ability to deliver physiologically relevant doses of nucleic acids to target tissues safely and effectively. Polymer and lipid based nano-assemblies have been successfully employed over the last couple of decades for the delivery of nucleic acids to treat a variety of disease states. Results of phase I/II clinical studies to evaluate the efficacy and biosafety of these gene delivery vehicles have been encouraging, thus promoting the design of more efficient and biocompatible systems. Research has focused on designing carriers to achieve biocompatibility, stability in the circulatory system, biodistribution to target the disease site, and intracellular delivery, all of which enhance the resulting therapeutic effect.
The family of poly(alkylene oxide) (PAO) includes random, block and branched polymers, among which the ABA type triblocks copolymers of ethylene oxide (EO) and propylene oxide (PO) (commercially known as Pluronic®) have received the greatest consideration. In this Account, we highlight examples of polycation-PAO conjugates, liposome-PAO formulations, and PAO micelles for nucleic acid delivery. Among the various polymer design consideration, which include molecular weight of polymer, molecular weight of blocks, and length of blocks, it has been found that the overall hydrophobic-lipophilic balance (HLB) is a critical parameter in defining the behavior of the polymer conjugates for gene delivery. The effects of varying this parameter are discussed in the context of improving gene delivery processes, such as serum-stability and association with cell membranes. Other innovative macromolecular modifications discussed in this category include the work done by our group to enhance the serum stability and efficiency of lipoplexes using PAO graft copolymers, development of a PAO gel-based carrier for sustained and stimuli responsive delivery, and biodegradable PAO-based amphiphilic block copolymers.
PMCID: PMC3361000  PMID: 22260518
21.  Comparative nucleic acid transfection efficacy in primary hepatocytes for gene silencing and functional studies 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:8.
Primary hepatocytes are the best resource for in vitro studies directed at understanding hepatic processes at the cellular and molecular levels, necessary for novel drug development to treat highly prevalent diseases such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. There is a need to identify simple methods to genetically manipulate primary hepatocytes and conduct functional studies with plasmids, small interfering RNA (siRNA) or microRNA (miRNA). New lipofection reagents are available that have the potential to yield higher levels of transfection with reduced toxicity.
We have tested several liposome-based transfection reagents used in molecular biology research. We show that transfection efficiency with one of the most recently developed formulations, Metafectene Pro, is high with plasmid DNA (>45% cells) as well as double stranded RNA (>90% with siRNA or microRNA). In addition, negligible cytotoxicity was present with all of these nucleic acids, even if cells were incubated with the DNA:lipid complex for 16 hours. To provide the proof of concept that these conditions can be used not only for overexpression of a gene of interest, but also in RNA interference applications, we targeted two liver expressed genes, Sterol Regulatory Element-Binding Protein-1 and Fatty Acid Binding Protein 5 using plasmid-mediated short hairpin RNA expression. In addition, similar transfection conditions were used to optimally deliver siRNA and microRNA.
We have identified a lipid-based reagent for primary hepatocyte transfection of nucleic acids currently used in molecular biology laboratories. The conditions described here can be used to expedite a large variety of research applications, from gene function studies to microRNA target identification.
PMCID: PMC3033823  PMID: 21244687
22.  Application of Controlled Radical Polymerization for Nucleic Acid Delivery 
Accounts of chemical research  2012;45(7):1089-1099.
Nucleic acid-based therapeutics can potentially address otherwise untreatable genetic disorders and have significant potential for a wide range of diseases. Therapeutic gene delivery can restore protein function by replacing defunct genes to restore cellular health while RNA interference (RNAi) can mask mutated and harmful genes.
Cationic polymers have been extensively studied for nucleic acid delivery applications due to their self-assembly with nucleic acids into virus-sized nanoparticles and high transfection efficiency in vitro, but toxicity and particle stability have limited their clinical applications. The advent of controlled radical polymerization has improved the quality, control and reproducibility of synthesized materials. Controlled radical polymerization yields well-defined, narrowly disperse materials of designable architectures and molecular weight, allowing study of the effects of polymer architecture and molecular weight on transfection efficiency and cytotoxicity for improved design of next-generation vectors. Robust methods such as atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), reverse addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization (RAFT), and ring-opening metastasis polymerization (ROMP) have been used to engineer materials that specifically enhance extracellular stability, cellular specificity, and decrease toxicity. This Account reviews findings from structure-function studies that have elucidated key design motifs necessary for the development of effective nucleic acid vectors. In addition, polymers that are biodegradable, form supramolecular structures, target specific cells, or facilitate endosomal release are also discussed. Finally, promising materials with in vivo applications ranging from pulmonary gene delivery to DNA vaccines are described.
PMCID: PMC3516364  PMID: 22242774
23.  Delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics by genetically engineered hematopoietic stem cells 
Advanced drug delivery reviews  2010;62(12):1204-1212.
Several populations of adult human stem cells have been identified, but only a few of these are in routine clinical use. The hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) is arguably the most well characterized and the most routinely transplanted adult stem cell. Although details regarding several aspects of this cell’s phenotype are not well understood, transplant of HSCs has advanced to become the standard of care for the treatment of a range of monogenic diseases and several types of cancer. It has also proven to be an excellent target for genetic manipulation, and clinical trials have already demonstrated the usefulness of targeting this cell as a means of delivering nucleic acid therapeutics for the treatment of several previously incurable diseases. It is anticipated that additional clinical trials will soon follow, such as genetically engineering HSCs with vectors to treat monogenic diseases such as hemophilia A. In addition to the direct targeting of HSCs, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have the potential to replace virtually any engineered stem cell therapeutic, including HSCs. We now know that for the broad use of genetically-modified HSCs for the treatment of non-lethal diseases, e.g. hemophilia A, we must be able to regulate the introduction of nucleic acid sequences into these target cells. We can begin to refine transduction protocols to provide safer approaches to genetically manipulate HSCs and strategies are being developed to improve the overall safety of gene transfer. This review focuses on recent advances in the systemic delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics using genetically-modified stem cells, specifically focusing on i) the use of retroviral vectors to genetically modify HSCs, ii) the expression of fVIII from hematopoietic stem cells for the treatment of hemophilia A, and iii) the use of genetically engineered hematopoietic cells generated from iPS cells as treatment for disorders of hematopoiesis.
PMCID: PMC2991563  PMID: 20869414
Hematopoietic stem cell; gene therapy; recombinant lentivirus; hemophilia A; induced pluripotent stem cell
24.  Application of Molecular Diagnostic Techniques for Viral Testing 
The Open Virology Journal  2012;6:104-114.
Nucleic acid amplification techniques are commonly used currently to diagnose viral diseases and manage patients with this kind of illnesses. These techniques have had a rapid but unconventional route of development during the last 30 years, with the discovery and introduction of several assays in clinical diagnosis. The increase in the number of commercially available methods has facilitated the use of this technology in the majority of laboratories worldwide. This technology has reduced the use of some other techniques such as viral culture based methods and serological assays in the clinical virology laboratory. Moreover, nucleic acid amplification techniques are now the methods of reference and also the most useful assays for the diagnosis in several diseases. The introduction of these techniques and their automation provides new opportunities for the clinical laboratory to affect patient care. The main objectives in performing nucleic acid tests in this field are to provide timely results useful for high-quality patient care at a reasonable cost, because rapid results are associated with improvements in patients care. The use of amplification techniques such as polymerase chain reaction, real-time polymerase chain reaction or nucleic acid sequence-based amplification for virus detection, genotyping and quantification have some advantages like high sensitivity and reproducibility, as well as a broad dynamic range. This review is an up-to-date of the main nucleic acid techniques and their clinical applications, and special challenges and opportunities that these techniques currently provide for the clinical virology laboratory.
PMCID: PMC3522074  PMID: 23248732
Automation methods; molecular diagnosis; molecular microbiology; nucleic acid techniques; PCR techniques; viral laboratory diagnosis.
25.  Sequence- and structural-selective nucleic acid binding revealed by the melting of mixtures 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(2):e14.
A simple method for the detection of sequence- and structural-selective ligand binding to nucleic acids is described. The method is based on the commonly used thermal denaturation method in which ligand binding is registered as an elevation in the nucleic acid melting temperature (Tm). The method can be extended to yield a new, higher -throughput, assay by the simple expediency of melting designed mixtures of polynucleotides (or oligonucleotides) with different sequences or structures of interest. Upon addition of ligand to such mixtures at low molar ratios, the Tm is shifted only for the nucleic acid containing the preferred sequence or structure. Proof of principle of the assay is provided using first a mixture of polynucleotides with different sequences and, second, with a mixture containing DNA, RNA and two types of DNA:RNA hybrid structures. Netropsin, ethidium, daunorubicin and actinomycin, ligands with known sequence preferences, were used to illustrate the method. The applicability of the approach to oligonucleotide systems is illustrated by the use of simple ternary and binary mixtures of defined sequence deoxyoligonucleotides challenged by the bisanthracycline WP631. The simple mixtures described here provide proof of principle of the assay and pave the way for the development of more sophisticated mixtures for rapidly screening the selectivity of new nucleic acid binding compounds.
PMCID: PMC1345701  PMID: 16432258

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