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Inhaled gene therapy of preclinical muco-obstructive lung diseases by nanoparticles capable of breaching the airway mucus barrier


Introduction Inhaled gene therapy of muco-obstructive lung diseases requires a strategy to achieve therapeutically relevant gene transfer to airway epithelium covered by particularly dehydrated and condensed mucus gel layer. Here, we introduce a synthetic DNA-loaded mucus-penetrating particle (DNA-MPP) capable of providing safe, widespread and robust transgene expression in in vivo and in vitro models of muco-obstructive lung diseases.

Methods We investigated the ability of DNA-MPP to mediate reporter and/or therapeutic transgene expression in lung airways of a transgenic mouse model of muco-obstructive lung diseases (ie, Scnn1b-Tg) and in air–liquid interface cultures of primary human bronchial epithelial cells harvested from an individual with cystic fibrosis. A plasmid designed to silence epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) hyperactivity, which causes airway surface dehydration and mucus stasis, was intratracheally administered via DNA-MPP to evaluate therapeutic effects in vivo with or without pretreatment with hypertonic saline, a clinically used mucus-rehydrating agent.

Results DNA-MPP exhibited marked greater reporter transgene expression compared with a mucus-impermeable formulation in in vivo and in vitro models of muco-obstructive lung diseases. DNA-MPP carrying ENaC-silencing plasmids provided efficient downregulation of ENaC and reduction of mucus burden in the lungs of Scnn1b-Tg mice, and synergistic impacts on both gene transfer efficacy and therapeutic effects were achieved when DNA-MPP was adjuvanted with hypertonic saline.

Discussion DNA-MPP constitutes one of the rare gene delivery systems providing therapeutically meaningful gene transfer efficacy in highly relevant in vivo and in vitro models of muco-obstructive lung diseases due to its unique ability to efficiently penetrate airway mucus.

  • cystic fibrosis

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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