Researchers identify potential nanoparticles for therapeutic mRNA delivery before birth

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania have identified ionizable lipid nanoparticles that could be used to deliver mRNA as part of fetal therapy.

Pregnant person sitting on couch holding an ultrasound photo.

The proof-of-concept study, published in Science Advances, engineered and screened a number of lipid nanoparticle formulations for targeting fetal organs in a mouse model, and has laid the groundwork for testing potential therapies to treat genetic diseases before birth. These lipid nanoparticles may provide a platform for in utero mRNA delivery, which would be used in therapies like fetal protein replacement and gene editing.

“We are very excited by the initial results of our lipid nanoparticle technology to deliver mRNA in utero in safe and effective manner, which could open new avenues for lipid nanoparticles and mRNA therapeutics to treat diseases before birth,” says Michael J. Mitchell, co-author and Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in Penn Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering.

Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology and prenatal diagnostics have made it possible to diagnose many genetic diseases before birth. Some of these diseases are treated by protein or enzyme replacement therapies after birth, but by then, some of the damaging effects of the disease have taken hold. Applying therapies while the patient is still in the womb has the potential to be more effective for some conditions. The small fetal size allows for maximal therapeutic dosing, and the immature fetal immune system may be more tolerant of replacement therapy.

Read more at Penn Engineering Today.