NTx scientists publish in European J. of Pharm. Sciences

Sep 1, 2022

Lipid nanoparticle formulations for optimal RNA-based topical delivery to murine airways

Tam et al. 1 September 2022

Co-authored by NTx scientists Drs. Anthony Tam, Jayesh A Kulkarni, Kevin An, Dominik Witzigmann and Pieter R Cullis.


Introduction: Lipid nanoparticles (LNP) have been successfully used as a platform technology for delivering nucleic acids to the liver. To broaden the application of LNPs in targeting non-hepatic tissues, we developed LNP-based RNA therapies (siRNA or mRNA) for the respiratory tract. Such optimized LNP systems could offer an early treatment strategy for viral respiratory tract infections such as COVID-19.

Methods: We generated a small library of six LNP formulations with varying helper lipid compositions and characterized their hydrodynamic diameter, size distribution and cargo entrapment properties. Next, we screened these LNP formulations for particle uptake and evaluated their potential for transfecting mRNA encoding green fluorescence protein (GFP) or SARS-CoV2 nucleocapsid-GFP fusion reporter gene in a human airway epithelial cell line in vitro. Following LNP-siGFP delivery, GFP protein knockdown efficiency was assessed by flow cytometry to determine %GFP+ cells and median fluorescence intensity (MFI) for GFP. Finally, lead LNP candidates were validated in Friend leukemia virus B (FVB) male mice via intranasal delivery of an mRNA encoding luciferase, using in vivo bioluminescence imaging.

Results: Dynamic light scattering revealed that all LNP formulations contained particles with an average diameter of <100 nm and a polydispersity index of <0.2. Human airway epithelial cell lines in culture internalized LNPs with differential GFP transfection efficiencies (73–97%). The lead formulation LNP6 entrapping GFP or Nuc-GFP mRNA demonstrated the highest transfection efficiency (97%). Administration of LNP-GFP siRNA resulted in a significant reduction of GFP protein expression. For in vivo studies, intranasal delivery of LNPs containing helper lipids (DSPC, DOPC, ESM or DOPS) with luciferase mRNA showed significant increase in luminescence expression in nasal cavity and lungs by at least 10 times above baseline control.

Conclusion: LNP formulations enable the delivery of RNA payloads into human airway epithelial cells, and in the murine respiratory system; they can be delivered to nasal mucosa and lower respiratory tract via intranasal delivery. The composition of helper lipids in LNPs crucially modulates transfection efficiencies in airway epithelia, highlighting their importance in effective delivery of therapeutic products for airways diseases.