Non-viral delivery of chemically modified mRNA to the retina: Subretinal versus intravitreal administration

Devoldere J., Peynshaert K., Dewitte H., Vanhove C., De Groef L., Moons L., ...More

JOURNAL OF CONTROLLED RELEASE, vol.307, pp.315-330, 2019 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 307
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.06.042
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.315-330
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


mRNA therapeutics have recently experienced a new wave of interest, mainly due to the discovery that chemical modifications to mRNA's molecular structure could drastically reduce its inherent immunogenicity and perceived instability. On this basis, we aimed to explore the potential of chemically stabilized mRNA for ocular applications. More specifically, we investigated the behavior of mRNA-loaded lipid-based carriers in human retinal cells (in vitro), in bovine retinal explants (ex vivo) and in mouse retinas (in vivo). We demonstrate a clear superiority of mRNA over pDNA to induce protein expression in different retinal cell types, which was further enhanced by chemical modification of the mRNA, providing up to similar to 1800-fold higher reporter gene expression compared to pDNA. Moreover, transgene expression could be detected for at least 20 days after a single administration of chemically modified mRNA in vitro. We furthermore determined the localization and extent of mRNA expression depending on the administration route. After subretinal (SR) administration, mRNA expression was observed in vivo and ex vivo. By contrast, intravitreal (IVT) administration resulted in limited expression in vivo. Using ex vivo bovine explants with an intact vitreoretinal (VR) interface we could attribute this to the inner limiting membrane (ILM), which presents a large barrier for non-viral delivery of mRNA, trapping mRNA complexes at the vitreal side. When the vitreous was removed, which compromises the ILM, mRNA expression was apparent and seemed to colocalize with Muller cells or photoreceptors after respectively IVT or SR administration. Taken together, this study represents a first step towards mRNA-mediated therapy for retinal diseases.