Chitosan and quaternised chitosan polymers as gene transfection agents / Chrizelle Venter
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Several approaches have been employed for directing the intracellular trafficking of DNA to the nucleus. Cationic polymers have been used to condense and deliver DNA and a few specific examples using chitosan as cationic polymer have been described. The concerted efforts in gene therapy to date have provided fruitful achievements toward a new era of curing human diseases. A number of obstacles, however, still must be surmounted for successful clinical applications. Therefore, chitosan-plasmid and quaternised chitosan-plasmid complexes (polyplexes) were investigated for their ability to transfect COS-1 cells and the results were compared with Transfectam/DNA lipoplexes for transfection efficiency. All of the chitoplexes utilised in this study proved to transfect COS-1 cells, however to a lesser extent than the Transfectam/DNA lipoplexes, which served as a positive control. Complexes formed with quaternised trimethyl and triethyl chitosan oligomers, specifically TMO L and TEO L, proved to be superior transfecting agents compared to other chitosans. The molecular mass of chitosan is considered to influence the stability of the chitosan/DNA polyplex, the efficiency of cell uptake and the dissociation of DNA from the complex after endocytosis. In literature it was shown that the toxicity of the chitosan1DNA polyplexes is relatively low compared to viral gene and lipid non-viral delivery vectors. This study showed that the percentage viable COS-1 cells when transfected with the chitosan polymers, oligomers, quaternised chitosan polymers and quaternised chitosan oligomers (chitoplexes) was higher than the percentage viable cells when transfected with lipoplexes prepared with Transfectam with the MTT assay. The Transfectam/DNA lipoplexes induced cell damage and a decreased viability of COS-1 cells were found. Chitosan/DNA and quaternised chitosan/DNA complexes did not affect the viability of the cell line. The degree of quaternisation of the polymers and oligomers and molecular size proved to be two important factors when considering effective non-viral gene delivery. It can be concluded that chitosan, especially quaternised oligomeric derivatives are polysaccharides that demonstrate much potential as a gene delivery system. The high solubility and low toxicity of chitosan allow its use in a wide variety of applications in the pharmaceutical industry and, as shown in this study, in gene delivery.
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