Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Rice, Kevin G

First Committee Member

Donovan, Maureen D

Second Committee Member

Fiegel, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

Giangrande, Paloma H

Fourth Committee Member

Salem, Aliasger


Gene therapy provides an opportunity to ameliorate several genetic disorders and treat numerous diseases by using nucleic acid-based materials to modulate gene activity. However, the greatest challenge for successful gene therapy applications remains delivery. Two general approaches are currently under investigation to improve gene delivery efficiencies. The first is by encapsulating therapeutic genes into modified viruses that are effective at transfecting cells but that have also caused serious side effects during clinical evaluations in 1999 and 2003. In contrast, non-viral gene therapy provides the safety of conventional pharmaceutical products, but possesses inadequate transfection efficiencies for clinical use. Successful non-viral gene delivery systems require evasion of the reticuloendothelial system (RES) while in circulation, a targeting ligand for efficient cellular uptake, and perhaps several additional components for efficient cellular disposition once the carrier has been internalized.

Engineering sophisticated gene delivery systems requires modular designs that are well characterized and optimized to circumvent each limiting barrier associated with gene delivery. The following thesis is focused on developing stabilized DNA polyplexes for in vivo applications and coupling their administration with current physical methods of non-viral gene delivery. The aim behind this approach is to systematically prepare gene carriers and evaluate their ability to maintain DNA transfection competent in order to determine which bioconjugate is the most successful for ultimately creating gene carriers that do not require physical interventions for gene expression.

The non-viral gene delivery systems presented in the thesis are based on PEGylated polyacridine peptides that bind to DNA predominantly by intercalation rather than by ionic interactions with DNA. The initial experimental chapters deal with the discovery of these novel DNA polyplexes, and the latter chapters focus on the optimization of their design for targeted in vivo gene delivery. The results demonstrate that PEGylated polyacridine DNA polyplexes possess improved compatibility for in vivo administration and that their flexible design is beneficial for preparing multi-component gene delivery systems.


Acridine, Drug Delivery, Gene Therapy, Pharmacokinetics, Plasmid DNA, Polyplex


xxiv, 199 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 181-199).


Copyright 2010 Christian Antonio Fernandez