Preparation of selective organ-targeting (SORT) lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) using multiple technical methods for tissue-specific mRNA delivery

Nat Protoc. 2023 Jan;18(1):265-291. doi: 10.1038/s41596-022-00755-x. Epub 2022 Oct 31.


A new methodology termed selective organ targeting (SORT) was recently developed that enables controllable delivery of nucleic acids to target tissues. SORT lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) involve the inclusion of SORT molecules that accurately tune delivery to the liver, lungs and spleen of mice after intravenous administration. Nanoparticles can be engineered to target specific cells and organs in the body by passive, active and endogenous targeting mechanisms that require distinct design criteria. SORT LNPs are modular and can be prepared using scalable, synthetic chemistry and established engineering formulation methods. This protocol provides detailed procedures, including the synthesis of a representative ionizable cationic lipid, preparation of multiple classes of SORT LNPs by pipette, vortex and microfluidic mixing methods, physical characterization, and in vitro/in vivo mRNA delivery evaluation. Depending on the scale of the experiments, the synthesis of the ionizable lipid requires 4-6 d; LNPs can be formulated within several hours; LNP characterization can be completed in 2-4 h; and in vitro/in vivo evaluation studies require 1-14 d, depending on the design and application. Our strategy offers a versatile and practical method for rationally designing nanoparticles that accurately target specific organs. The SORT LNPs generated as described in this protocol can therefore be applied to multiple classes of LNP systems for therapeutic nucleic acid delivery and facilitate the development of protein replacement and genetic medicines in target tissues. This protocol does not require specific expertise, is modular to various lipids within defined physicochemical classes, and should be accomplishable by researchers from various backgrounds.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Liposomes*
  • Mice
  • Nanoparticles* / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics


  • Lipid Nanoparticles
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Liposomes
  • Lipids
  • RNA, Small Interfering