The efficacy of materials for carrying genes into cells may be determined more by their stiffness than by their chemical properties, according to new research published in the June 2005 issue of Nature Materials.
Current efforts to improve the delivery efficiency of non-viral gene vectors or carriers are focused on manipulations of the vector itself, whereas the influence of environmental factors is too often ignored. The results obtained by David Mooney and colleagues suggest that, when it comes to gene transfer and expression, cells may care less about surface chemistry and more about the mechanical properties of the substrate to which they are attached.
An extensive study of several biomaterials used for cell cultures shows that mechanical factors, such as the rigidity of the substrate, regulate the cell's ability to uptake and express genes from non-viral carriers. Cells attached to more rigid surfaces uptake more condensed DNA complexes and ultimately express more of the transferred gene. This surprising revelation suggests that stiffness is a general material-based point of control for non-viral gene delivery that may have implications for the development of biomaterials for localized gene therapy, say the researchers.
David Mooney (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Also available online.
(C) Nature Materials press release.
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