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Lysine-functionalized nanodiamonds as gene carriers: development of stable colloidal dispersion for in vitro cellular uptake studies and siRNA delivery application

Authors Alwani S, Kaur R, Michel D, Chitanda J, Verrall R, Karunakaran C, Badea I

Received 11 July 2015

Accepted for publication 12 September 2015

Published 19 February 2016 Volume 2016:11 Pages 687—702


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Thomas Webster

Saniya Alwani,1 Randeep Kaur,1 Deborah Michel,1 Jackson M Chitanda,2 Ronald E Verrall,3 Chithra Karunakaran,4 Ildiko Badea1

1Drug Design and Discovery Research Group, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, 2Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, 3Department of Chemistry, University of Saskatchewan, 4Canadian Light Source, Saskatoon, SK, Canada

Purpose: Nanodiamonds (NDs) are emerging as an attractive tool for gene therapeutics. To reach their full potential for biological application, NDs should maintain their colloidal stability in biological milieu. This study describes the behavior of lysine-functionalized ND (lys-ND) in various dispersion media, with an aim to limit aggregation and improve the colloidal stability of ND-gene complexes called diamoplexes. Furthermore, cellular and macromolecular interactions of lys-NDs are also analyzed in vitro to establish the understanding of ND-mediated gene transfer in cells.
Methods: lys-NDs were synthesized earlier through covalent conjugation of lysine amino acid to carboxylated NDs surface generated through re-oxidation in strong oxidizing acids. In this study, dispersions of lys-NDs were prepared in various media, and the degree of sedimentation was monitored for 72 hours. Particle size distributions and zeta potential measurements were performed for a period of 25 days to characterize the physicochemical stability of lys-NDs in the medium. The interaction profile of lys-NDs with fetal bovine serum showed formation of a protein corona, which was evaluated by size and charge distribution measurements. Uptake of lys-NDs in cervical cancer cells was analyzed by scanning transmission X-ray microscopy, flow cytometry, and confocal microscopy. Cellular uptake of diamoplexes (complex of lys-NDs with small interfering RNA) was also analyzed using flow cytometry.
Results: Aqueous dispersion of lys-NDs showed minimum sedimentation and remained stable over a period of 25 days. Size distributions showed good stability, remaining under 100 nm throughout the testing period. A positive zeta potential of >+20 mV indicated a preservation of surface charges. Size distribution and zeta potential changed for lys-NDs after incubation with blood serum, suggesting an interaction with biomolecules, mainly proteins, and a possible formation of a protein corona. Cellular internalization of lys-NDs was confirmed by various techniques such as confocal microscopy, soft X-ray spectroscopy, and flow cytometry.
Conclusion: This study establishes that dispersion of lys-NDs in aqueous medium maintains long-term stability and also provides evidence that lysine functionalization enables NDs to interact effectively with the biological system to be used for RNAi therapeutics.

Keywords: colloidal stability, particle size, zeta potential, protein corona, diamoplex, microscopy, flow cytometry

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