Biodegradable polymers for the sustained release of antisense nucleic acids

  • Karen J. Lewis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Antisense oligodeoxynucleotides can selectively inhibit individual gene expression provided they remain stable at the target site for a sufficient period of time. Thus, the efficacy of antisense oligodeoxynucleotides may be improved by employing a sustained release delivery system which would protect from degradation by nucleases whilst delivering the nucleic acid in a controlled manner to the site of action. Biodegradable polymer films and micro spheres were evaluated as delivery devices for the oligodeoxynucleotides and ribozymes. Polymers such as polylactide, polyglycolide, polyhydroxybutyrate and polyhydroxyvalerate were used due to their biocompatability and non toxic degradation products.
Release profiles of antisense nucleic acids from films over 28 days was biphasic, characterised by an initial burst release during the first 48 hours followed by a more sustained release. Release from films of longer antisense nucleic acids was slower compared to shorter nucleic acids. Backbone type also affected release, although to a lesser extent than length. Total release of the nucleic acids is dependent upon polymer degradation, no degradation of the polymer films was evident over the 28 day period, due to the high molecular weight and crystallinity of the polymers required to make solvent cast films. Backbone length and type did not affect release from microspheres, release was generally faster than from films, due to the increased surface area, and low molecular weight polymers which showed signs of degradation over the release period, resulting in a triphasic release profile. An increase in release was observed when sphere size and polymer molecular weight were decreased. The polymer entrapped phosphodiester oligodeoxynucleotides and ribozymes had enhanced stability compared to free oligodeoxynucleotides and ribozymes when incubated in serum. The released nucleic acids were still capable of hybridising to their target sequence, indicating that the fabrication processes did not adversely effect the properties of the antisense nucleic acids.
Oligodeoxynucleotides loaded in 2μm spheres had a 10 fold increase in macrophage association compared to free oligodeoxynucleotides. Fluorescent microscopy indicates that the polymer entrapped oligodeoxynucleotide is concentrated inside the cell, whereas free oligodeoxynucleotides are concentrated at the cell membrane.
Biodegradable polymers can reduce the limitations of antisense therapy and thus offer a potential therapeutic advantage.
Date of AwardJan 1996
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSaghir Akhtar (Supervisor) & Bill Irwin (Supervisor)


  • oligodeoxynucleotides
  • film
  • microsphere
  • biodegradable
  • stability

Cite this