Decades of intense research in molecular biology and biochemistry are fructifying in the emergence of therapeutic messenger RNAs (mRNA) as a new class of drugs. Synthetic mRNAs can be sequence optimised to improve translatability into proteins, as well as chemically modified to reduce immunogenicity and increase chemical stability using naturally occurring uridine modifications. These structural improvements, together with the development of safe and efficient vehicles that preserve mRNA integrity in circulation and allow targeted intracellular delivery, have paved the way for mRNA-based therapeutics. Indeed, mRNAs formulated into biodegradable lipid nanoparticles are currently being tested in preclinical and clinical studies for multiple diseases including cancer immunotherapy and vaccination for infectious diseases. An emerging application of mRNAs is the supplementation of proteins that are not expressed or are not functional in a regulated and tissue-specific manner. This so-called 'protein replacement therapy' could represent a solution for genetic metabolic diseases currently lacking effective treatments. Here we summarise this new class of drugs and discuss the preclinical evidence supporting the potential of liver-mediated mRNA therapy for three rare genetic conditions: methylmalonic acidaemia, acute intermittent porphyria and ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency.
Keywords: genetics; liver metabolism; molecular biology.
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