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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2003 (2003), Issue 2, Pages 149-158
Review article

Targeting of Synthetic Gene Delivery Systems

Cancer Research UK Department of Medical Oncology, Beatson Laboratories, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G61 1BD, Scotland

Received 29 June 2002; Accepted 19 July 2002

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Safe, efficient, and specific delivery of therapeutic genes remains an important bottleneck for the development of gene therapy. Synthetic, nonviral systems have a unique pharmaceutical profile with potential advantages for certain applications. Targeting of the synthetic vector improves the specificity of gene medicines through a modulation of the carriers' biodistribution, thus creating a dose differential between healthy tissue and the target site. The biodistribution of current carrier systems is being influenced to a large extent by intrinsic physicochemical characteristics, such as charge and size. Consequently, such nonspecific interactions can interfere with specific targeting, for example, by ligands. Therefore, a carrier complex should ideally be inert, that is, free from intrinsic properties that would bias its distribution away from the target site. Strategies such as coating of DNA carrier complexes with hydrophilic polymers have been used to mask some of these intrinsic targeting effects and avoid nonspecific interactions. Preexisting endogenous ligand-receptor interactions have frequently been used for targeting to certain cell types or tumours. Recently exogenous ligands have been derived from microorganisms or, like antibodies or phage-derived peptides, developed de novo. In animal models, such synthetic vectors have targeted remote sites such as a tumour. Furthermore, the therapeutic proof of the concept has been demonstrated for fitting combinations of synthetic vectors and therapeutic gene.