Researchers at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and the NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD) have developed a carrier in their lab that is five times more efficient in delivering DNA into cells than today’s commercial delivery methods—reagent vectors. This novel complex is a peptide-polymer hybrid, assembled from two separate, less effective vectors that are used to carry DNA into cells. The research could help scientists better understand gene function and ultimately improve gene therapy.

Results of their study were published in Biomaterials. The findings were the result of a collaborative research project conducted by Seiichi Yamano at NYUCD and Jin Montclare at the School of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Nonviral vectors such as those engineered in this study are used for transfection—the process of introducing foreign genetic material (in this case, DNA called a plasmid) into a cell. The vectors are essentially vehicles that carry the genetic matter into the cell.

Traditionally, scientists have engineered viruses to carry out transfection, but viruses trigger the immune response. Virus transfection is also extremely costly and presents numerous difficulties for mass processing. On the other hand, nonviral vectors do not trigger the immune system and are easily manufactured and modified for safe, more effective delivery. Their shortcoming is that they generally are effective only for short periods.

For this project, Yamano and Montclare built a new nonviral vector, more effective than either of its components individually. They tested their reagent vector both in vitro—grown in a petri dish—as well as for approximately seven months in a living organism—in vivo.

Other contributors to the project included: Jisen Dai, Shigeru Hanatani, Ken Haku, Takuto Yamanaka, Mika Ishioka, and Tadahiro Takayama of the NYUCD Department of Prosthodontics; Carlo Yuvienco of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Sachin Khapli of the NYU Abu Dhabi Division of Engineering; and Amr Moursi of the NYUCD Department of Pediatric Dentistry.

The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program, and the Army Research Office.


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