1. Aptamer-functionalized lipid nanoparticles targeting osteoblasts as a novel RNA interference-based bone anabolic strategy (Published on Nature Medicine, 2015)

Abstract

Currently, major concerns about the safety and efficacy of RNA interference (RNAi)-based bone anabolic strategies still exist because of the lack of direct osteoblast-specific delivery systems for osteogenic siRNAs. Here we screened the aptamer CH6 by cell-SELEX, specifically targeting both rat and human osteoblasts, and then we developed CH6 aptamer–functionalized lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) encapsulating osteogenic pleckstrin homology domain-containing family O member 1 (Plekho1) siRNA (CH6-LNPs-siRNA). Our results showed that CH6 facilitated in vitro osteoblast-selective uptake of Plekho1 siRNA, mainly via macropinocytosis, and boosted in vivoosteoblast-specific Plekho1 gene silencing, which promoted bone formation, improved bone microarchitecture, increased bone mass and enhanced mechanical properties in both osteopenic and healthy rodents. These results indicate that osteoblast-specific aptamer-functionalized LNPs could act as a new RNAi-based bone anabolic strategy, advancing the targeted delivery selectivity of osteogenic siRNAs from the tissue level to the cellular level

2. A water-soluble nucleolin aptamer-paclitaxel conjugate for tumor-specific targeting in ovarian cancer (Published on Nature Communication, 2017)

Abstract

Paclitaxel (PTX) is among the most commonly used first-line drugs for cancer chemotherapy. However, its poor water solubility and indiscriminate distribution in normal tissues remain clinical challenges. Here we design and synthesize a highly water-soluble nucleolin aptamer-paclitaxel conjugate (NucA-PTX) that selectively delivers PTX to the tumor site. By connecting a tumor-targeting nucleolin aptamer (NucA) to the active hydroxyl group at 2′ position of PTX via a cathepsin B sensitive dipeptide bond, NucA-PTX remains stable and inactive in the circulation. NucA facilitates the uptake of the conjugated PTX specifically in tumor cells. Once inside cells, the dipeptide bond linker of NucA-PTX is cleaved by cathepsin B and then the conjugated PTX is released for action. The NucA modification assists the selective accumulation of the conjugated PTX in ovarian tumor tissue rather than normal tissues, and subsequently resulting in notably improved antitumor activity and reduced toxicity.

3. Tumor cell-targeted delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 by aptamer-functionalized lipopolymer for therapeutic genome editing of VEGFA in osteosarcoma. (Published on Biomaterials, 2017).

Abstract

Osteosarcoma (OS) is a highly aggressive pediatric cancer, characterized by frequent lung metastasis and pathologic bone destruction. Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA), highly expressed in OS, not only contributes to angiogenesis within the tumor microenvironment via paracrine stimulation of vascular endothelial cells, but also acts as an autocrine survival factor for tumor cell themselves, thus making it a promising therapeutic target for OS. CRISPR/Cas9 is a versatile genome editing technology and holds tremendous promise for cancer treatment. However, a major bottleneck to achieve the therapeutic potential of the CRISPR/Cas9 is the lack of in vivo tumor-targeted delivery systems. Here, we screened an OS cell-specific aptamer (LC09) and developed a LC09-functionalized PEG-PEI-Cholesterol (PPC) lipopolymer encapsulating CRISPR/Cas9 plasmids encoding VEGFA gRNA and Cas9. Our results demonstrated that LC09 facilitated selective distribution of CRISPR/Cas9 in both orthotopic OS and lung metastasis, leading to effective VEGFA genome editing in tumor, decreased VEGFA expression and secretion, inhibited orthotopic OS malignancy and lung metastasis, as well as reduced angiogenesis and bone lesion with no detectable toxicity. The delivery system simultaneously restrained autocrine and paracrine VEGFA signaling in tumor cells and could facilitate translating CRISPR-Cas9 into clinical cancer treatment.