Evaluation of biodegradable polymer microspheres and an anionic dendrimer for the potential delivery of antisense oligonucleotides

  • Majad Hussain

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Antisense oligonucleotides (AODNs) can selectively inhibit individual gene expression by binding specifically to rnRNA. The over-expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been observed in human breast and glioblastoma tumours and therefore AODNs designed to target the EGFR would be a logical approach to treat such tumours. However, poor pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic and cellular uptake properties of AODNs have limited their potential to become successful therapeutic agents. Biodegradable polymeric poly (lactide-co-glycolide) (P(LA-GA)) and dendrimer delivery systems may allow us to overcome these problems. The use of combination therapy of AODNs and cytotoxic agents such as 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in biodegradable polymeric formulations may further improve therapeutic efficacy.
AODN and 5-FU were either co-entrapped in a single microsphere formulation or individually entrapped in two separate microsphere formulations (double emulsion method) and release profiles determined in vitro. The release rates (biphasic) of the two agents were significantly slower when co-entrapped as a single microsphere formulation compared to those obtained with the separate formulations. Sustained release over 35 days was observed in both types of formulation.
Naked and microsphere-loaded AODN and 5-FU (in separate formulations) were tested on an A431 vulval carcinoma cell line. Combining naked or encapsulated drugs produced a greater reduction in viable cell number as compared with either agent alone. However, controls and Western blotting indicated that non-sequence specific cytotoxic effects were responsible for the differences in viable cell number.
The uptake properties of an anionic dendrimer based on a pentaerythritol structure covalently linked to AODNs (targeting the EGFR) have been characterised. The cellular uptake of AODN linked to the dendrimer was up to 3.5-fold higher in A431 cells as compared to naked AODN. Mechanistic studies suggested that receptor-mediated and adsorptive (binding protein-mediated) endocytosis were the predominant uptake mechanisms for the dendrimer-AODN.
RNase H cleavage assay suggested that the dendrimer-AODN was able to bind and cleave the target site. A reduction of 20%, 28% and 45% in EGFR expression was observed with 0.05μM, 0.1μM and 0.5μM dendrimer-AODN treatments respectively with a reduction in viable cell number. These results indicated that the dendrimer delivery system may reduce viable cell number by an antisense specific mechanism.

Date of AwardApr 2002
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSaghir Akhtar (Supervisor)


  • nucleic acids
  • 5-fluorouracil
  • epidermal growth factor receptor
  • poly(lactide-co-glycolide
  • dendrimers

Cite this