Overcoming cellular barriers for RNA therapeutics

Nat Biotechnol. 2017 Mar;35(3):222-229. doi: 10.1038/nbt.3802. Epub 2017 Feb 27.


RNA-based therapeutics, such as small-interfering (siRNAs), microRNAs (miRNAs), antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), aptamers, synthetic mRNAs and CRISPR-Cas9, have great potential to target a large part of the currently undruggable genes and gene products and to generate entirely new therapeutic paradigms in disease, ranging from cancer to pandemic influenza to Alzheimer's disease. However, for these RNA modalities to reach their full potential, they first need to overcome a billion years of evolutionary defenses that have kept RNAs on the outside of cells from invading the inside of cells. Overcoming the lipid bilayer to deliver RNA into cells has remained the major problem to solve for widespread development of RNA therapeutics, but recent chemistry advances have begun to penetrate this evolutionary armor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods*
  • Nanocapsules / chemistry*
  • Nanocapsules / ultrastructure
  • RNA / administration & dosage*
  • RNA / pharmacokinetics*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNAi Therapeutics / methods*


  • Nanocapsules
  • RNA