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Design, Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Zwitterionic Lipids for Drug and siRNA Delivery Applications


Lipid-based nanoparticles have long been used to deliver biologically active molecules such as drugs, proteins, peptides, DNA, and siRNA in vivo. Liposomes and lipoplexes alter the biodistribution, pharmacokinetics, and cellular uptake of their encapsulated or associated cargo. This can increase drug efficacy while reducing toxicity, resulting in an increased therapeutic index and better clinical outcomes. Unlike small molecule drugs, which passively diffuse through lipid membranes, nucleic acids and proteins require an active, carrier mediated escape mechanism to reach their site of action. As such, the therapeutic application and drug properties dictate the required biophysical characteristics of the lipid nanoparticle. These carrier properties depend on the structure and biophysical characteristics of the lipids and other components used to formulate them.

This dissertation presents a series of studies related to the development of novel synthetic lipids for use in drug delivery systems. First, we developed a novel class of zwitterionic lipids with head groups containing a cationic amine and anionic carboxylate and ester-linked oleic acid tails. These lipids exhibit structure-dependent, pH-responsive biophysical properties, and may be useful components for next-generation drug delivery systems. Second, we extended the idea of amine/carboxylate containing zwitterionic head groups and synthesized a series of acetate terminated diacyl lipids containing a quaternary amine. These lipids have an inverted headgroup orientation compared to naturally occurring zwitterionic lipids, and show interesting salt-dependent biophysical properties. Third, we synthesized and characterized a focused library of ionizable lysine-based lipids, which contain a lysine head group linked to a long-chain dialkylamine. A focused library was synthesized to determine the impact of hydrophobic fluidity, lipid net charge, and lipid pKa on the biophysical and siRNA transfection characteristics of these lipids. Our results indicate that structural variations significantly impact the biophysical and transfection behavior of this class of lipids.

In summary, we have synthesized several new classes of lipids with biophysical characteristics that may be useful for drug delivery applications. Our results show that slight modifications to lipid structure impacts their biophysical behavior, which in turn dictates their potential utility in drug delivery systems. Further understanding lipid structure-activity relationships will allow for the rational design and engineering of lipids with appropriate properties for specific delivery applications.

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