Impaired angiogenesis is a major clinical problem and affects wound healing especially in diabetic patients. Improving angiogenesis is a reasonable strategy to increase diabetes-impaired wound healing. Recently, our lab described a system of transient gene expression due to pegylated poly-l-lysine (PLL-g-PEG) polymer-mediated plasmid DNA delivery in vitro. Here we synthesized peptide-modified PLL-g-PEG polymers with two functionalities, characterized them in vitro and utilized them in vivo via a fibrin-based delivery matrix to induce dermal wound angiogenesis in diabetic rats. The two peptides were 1) a TG-peptide to covalently bind these nanocondensates to the fibrin matrix (TG-peptide) for a sustained release and 2) a polyR peptide to improve cellular uptake of these nanocondensates. In order to induce angiogenesis in vivo we condensed modified and non-modified polymers with plasmid DNA encoding a truncated form of the therapeutic candidate gene hypoxia-inducible transcription factor 1α (HIF-1α). HIF-1α is the primarily oxygen-dependent regulated subunit of the heterodimeric transcription factor HIF-1, which controls angiogenesis among other physiological pathways. The truncated form of HIF-1α lacks the oxygen-dependent degradation domain (ODD) and therefore escapes degradation under normoxic conditions. PLL-g-PEG polymer-mediated HIF-1α-ΔODD plasmid DNA delivery was found to lead to a transiently induced gene expression of angiogenesis-related genes Acta2 and Pecam1 as well as the HIF-1α target gene Vegf in vivo. Furthermore, HIF-1α gene delivery was shown to enhance the number endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells - precursors for mature blood vessels - during wound healing. We show that - depending on the selection of the therapeutic target gene - PLL-g-PEG nanocondensates are a promising alternative to viral DNA delivery approaches, which might pose a risk to health.
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