Although Nature's antisense approaches are clearly impressive, this Perspectives article focuses on the experimental uses of antisense reagents (ASRs) for control of biological processes. ASRs comprise antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), and their catalytically active counterparts ribozymes and DNAzymes, as well as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). ASOs and ribozymes/DNAzymes target RNA molecules on the basis of Watson-Crick base pairing in sequence-specific manner. ASOs generally result in destruction of the target RNA by RNase-H mediated mechanisms, although they may also sterically block translation, also resulting in loss of protein production. Ribozymes and DNAzymes cleave target RNAs after base pairing via their antisense flanking arms. siRNAs, which contain both sense and antisense regions from a target RNA, can mediate target RNA destruction via RNAi and the RISC, although they can also function at the transcriptional level. A considerable number of ASRs (mostly ASOs) have progressed into clinical trials, although most have relatively long histories in Phase I/II settings. Clinical trial results are surprisingly difficult to find, although few ASRs appear to have yet established efficacy in Phase III levels. Evolution of ASRs has included: (a) Modifications to ASOs to render them nuclease resistant, with analogous modifications to siRNAs being developed; and (b) Development of strategies to select optimal sites for targeting. Perhaps the biggest barrier to effective therapies with ASRs is the "Delivery Problem." Various liposomal vehicles have been used for systemic delivery with some success, and recent modifications appear to enhance systemic delivery, at least to liver. Various nanoparticle formulations are now being developed which may also enhance delivery. Going forward, topical applications of ASRs would seem to have the best chances for success. In summary, modifications to ASRs to enhance stability, improve targeting, and incremental improvements in delivery vehicles continue to make ASRs attractive as molecular therapeutics, but their advance toward the bedside has been agonizingly slow.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology