Research ArticleBIOMATERIALS

The transition from linear to highly branched poly(β-amino ester)s: Branching matters for gene delivery

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Science Advances  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 6, e1600102
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600102

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Nonviral gene therapy holds great promise but has not delivered treatments for clinical application to date. Lack of safe and efficient gene delivery vectors is the major hurdle. Among nonviral gene delivery vectors, poly(β-amino ester)s are one of the most versatile candidates because of their wide monomer availability, high polymer flexibility, and superior gene transfection performance both in vitro and in vivo. However, to date, all research has been focused on vectors with a linear structure. A well-accepted view is that dendritic or branched polymers have greater potential as gene delivery vectors because of their three-dimensional structure and multiple terminal groups. Nevertheless, to date, the synthesis of dendritic or branched polymers has been proven to be a well-known challenge. We report the design and synthesis of highly branched poly(β-amino ester)s (HPAEs) via a one-pot “A2 + B3 + C2”–type Michael addition approach and evaluate their potential as gene delivery vectors. We find that the branched structure can significantly enhance the transfection efficiency of poly(β-amino ester)s: Up to an 8521-fold enhancement in transfection efficiency was observed across 12 cell types ranging from cell lines, primary cells, to stem cells, over their corresponding linear poly(β-amino ester)s (LPAEs) and the commercial transfection reagents polyethyleneimine, SuperFect, and Lipofectamine 2000. Moreover, we further demonstrate that HPAEs can correct genetic defects in vivo using a recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa graft mouse model. Our findings prove that the A2 + B3 + C2 approach is highly generalizable and flexible for the design and synthesis of HPAEs, which cannot be achieved by the conventional polymerization approach; HPAEs are more efficient vectors in gene transfection than the corresponding LPAEs. This provides valuable insight into the development and applications of nonviral gene delivery and demonstrates great prospect for their translation to a clinical environment.

  • Gene delivery
  • non-viral vector
  • poly(β-amino ester)
  • highly branched polymer
  • RDEB

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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