Micellar nanoparticles that mimic the size and shape of viral particles are attractive as a DNA delivery vehicle because of their improved colloidal stability and transport properties, ability to evade immune clearance, and high payload packaging capacity. Moreover, nanoparticle shape has explicitly been identified as an important factor determining their transport properties and delivery efficiency. However, there is no available nanoparticle synthesis method for packaging plasmid DNA payloads while allowing sufficient control over particle size and shape. Recently, we have shown that distinct shape control and tuning for DNA micelles can be achieved through complexation of plasmid DNA with engineered block or graft copolymers of polycation and poly (ethylene glycol) under controlled assembly conditions. In this proposed study, we will develop a synergistic research program comprising parallel and integrated experimental and computational strategies to (1) develop and understand new methods for DNA micelle assembly that permit scalable, high-uniformity synthesis with shape control and high stability; (2) reveal shape-dependent nanoparticle diffusion and transport properties in physiologically media in vitro and in vivo; and (3) demonstrate the delivery efficiency of a theranostic vector by shape-controlled DNA micelles and their imaging and therapeutic efficacy using mouse models of human metastatic cancers. The proposed study brings together a unique combination of expertise in DNA nanoparticle assembly, microfluidics-based single-particle analysis/fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, in vivo imaging, cancer theranostics, and computer simulations to address a crucial knowledge gap in the engineering and delivery of DNA nano-therapeutics. It will not only offer a new, generalizable method for synthesizing shape-controlled DNA micelles, but also provide a mechanistic understanding of shape- dependent transport properties of nanoparticles. Moreover, the integrated nature of our experimental and computational approach establishes a new paradigm that will greatly accelerate the discovery and development of new DNA nanoparticle systems for efficient gene medicine delivery.

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This study will develop integrated experimental and computational strategies to gain a detailed understanding of the assembly of DNA nanoparticles with controlled shapes and sizes that mimic those of natural virus particles, and of how the shape of nanoparticles dictates their transport properties and delivery efficiency. This work will demonstrate the improved efficiency in imaging and treating mouse models of human metastatic cancers using these shape-controlled DNA nanoparticles.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Research Project (R01)
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Biomaterials and Biointerfaces Study Section (BMBI)
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Tucker, Jessica
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Johns Hopkins University
Schools of Engineering
United States
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