Purpose: The use of small non-coding nucleic acids, such as siRNA and miRNA, has allowed for a deeper understanding of gene functions, as well as for development of gene therapies for complex neurodegenerative diseases, including retinal degeneration. For effective delivery into the eye and transfection of the retina, suitable transfection methods are required. We investigated the use of a lipid-based transfection agent, Invivofectamine® 3.0 (Thermo Fisher Scientific), as a potential method for delivery of nucleic acids to the retina.
Methods: Rodents were injected intravitreally with formulations of Invivofectamine 3.0 containing scrambled, Gapdh, Il-1β, and C3 siRNAs, or sterile PBS (control) using a modified protocol for encapsulation of nucleic acids. TdT-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) and IBA1 immunohistochemistry was used to determine histological cell death and inflammation. qPCR were used to determine the stress and inflammatory profile of the retina. Electroretinography (ERG) and optical coherence tomography (OCT) were employed as clinical indicators of retinal health.
Results: We showed that macrophage recruitment, retinal stress, and photoreceptor cell death in animals receiving Invivofectamine 3.0 were comparable to those in negative controls. Following delivery of Invivofectamine 3.0 alone, no statistically significant changes in expression were found in a suite of inflammatory and stress genes, and ERG and OCT analyses revealed no changes in retinal function or morphology. Injections with siRNAs for proinflammatory genes (C3 and Il-1β) and Gapdh, in combination with Invivofectamine 3.0, resulted in statistically significant targeted gene knockdown in the retina for up to 4 days following injection. Using a fluorescent Block-It siRNA, transfection was visualized throughout the neural retina with evidence of transfection observed in cells of the ganglion cell layer, inner nuclear layer, and outer nuclear layer.
Conclusions: This work supports the use of Invivofectamine 3.0 as a transfection agent for effective delivery of nucleic acids to the retina for gene function studies and as potential therapeutics.
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