Dr. Nupura Bhise

Dr. Bhise


Gene therapy involves the delivery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) into cells to override or replace a malfunctioning gene for treating debilitating genetic diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to its use as a therapeutic, it can also serve as a technology to enable regenerative medicine strategies. The central challenge of the gene therapy research arena is developing a safe and effective delivery agent. Since viral vectors have critical immunogenic and tumorogenic safety issues that limit their clinical use, recent efforts have focused on developing non-viral biomaterial based delivery vectors. Cationic polymers are an attractive class of gene delivery vectors due to their structural versatility, ease of synthesis, biodegradability, ability to self-complex into nanoparticles with negatively charged DNA, capacity to carry large cargo, cellular uptake and endosomal escape capacity.

In this thesis, we hypothesized that developing a biomaterial library of poly(betaamino esters) (PBAE), a newer class of cationic polymers consisting of biodegradable ester groups, would allow investigating vector design parameters and formulating effective non-viral gene delivery strategies for cancer drug delivery, tissue engineering and stem cell engineering. Consequently, a high-throughput transfection assay was developed to screen the PBAE-based nanoparticles in hard to transfect fibroblast cell lines. To gain mechanistic insights into the nanoparticle formulation process, biophysical properties of the vectors were characterized in terms of molecular weight (MW), nanoparticle size, zeta potential and plasmid per particle count. We report a novel assay developedfor quantifying the plasmid per nanoparticle count and studying its implications for co-delivery of multiple genes. The MW of the polymers ranged from 10 kDa to 100 kDa, nanoparticle size was about 150 run, zeta potential was about 30 mV in sodium acetate buffer (25 mM, pH 5) and 30 to 100 plasmids were associated with a single polymeric nanoparticle.

To develop PBAE vectors for application in cancer drug delivery and 3-D tissue engineered cultures, the gene delivery efficacy of PBAE nanoparticles was evaluated in mammary epithelial cells used as a model for studying normal development of mammary gland as well as the events that lead to development of breast cancer. We investigated how small molecular changes to the end-capping terminal group of the polymer and changes to the polymer MW affect gene delivery in 2-D mammary cell culture compared to 3-D primary organotypic cultured mouse mammary tissue. We reported that the polymers synthesized here are more effective for gene deliverythan FuGENE ® HD, one of the leading commercially available reagents for non-viral gene delivery. We also highlighted that transfection of the 3-D organotypic cultures is more difficult than transfection of 2-D cultures, but likely models some of the key challenges for in vivo gene therapy more closely than 2-D cultures. Finally, we evaluated the use of PBAE nanotechnology for genetic manipulation of stem cell fate for regenerative medicineapplications. We developed a PBAE nanoparticle based non-viral protocol and compared it with an electroporation based approach to deliver episomal plasmids encoding reprogramming factors for derivation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). The hiPSCs generated using these approaches can be differentiated into specific cell types for in vitro disease modeling and drug screening, specifically to study retinal degeneration.

Dec 2014