Covalent functionalization of graphene sheets for plasmid DNA delivery

To deliver genes into cells for therapeutic and experimental purposes, several methods were used, including plasmid transfection and viral vectors. Researchers are looking for better new approaches due to the limited efficacy and questionable safety issues. Graphene has sparked a lot of interest in a variety of medical applications, including gene delivery, which could be safer than traditional viral vectors.

In a recent study, researchers managed to functionalize pristine graphene sheets with a polyamine to allow the loading of plasmid DNA (pDNA) and enhance its delivery into cells. Graphene sheets were successfully covalently functionalized with a tetraethylene glycol derivative linked to polyamine groups in order to improve their water dispersibility and ability to interact with pDNA. Visual and transmission electron microscopy were used to demonstrate the improved dispersibility of graphene sheets.

Periodic density functional theory calculations, using the BAND engine in the Amsterdam Modelling Suite (AMS), have suggested a strong binding between the pDNA, represented by a G-T base pair in pDNA, and the functionalized graphene. In addition, the quantum theory of atoms in molecules (QTAIM), which is implemented in AMS, was used to reveal the nature of bonding between the functionalized graphene and pDNA.

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M. Assali, N. Kittana, N. Badran, S. Omari, Covalent functionalization of graphene sheets for plasmid DNA delivery: experimental and theoretical study, RSC advances, 13(10), 7000-7008, 2023

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