This study examined the gene transfer efficiency and toxicity of 2-kDa polyethylenimine conjugated to gold nanoparticles (PEI2-GNP) in the human cornea in vitro and rabbit cornea in vivo. PEI2-GNP with nitrogen-to-phosphorus (N/P) ratios of up to 180 exhibited significant transgene delivery in the human cornea without altering the viability or phenotype of these cells. Similarly, PEI2-GNP applied to corneal tissues collected after 12 h, 72 h, or 7 days exhibited appreciable gold uptake throughout the rabbit stroma with gradual clearance of GNP over time. Transmission electron microscopy detected GNP in the keratocytes and the extracellular matrix of the rabbit corneas. Additionally, slitlamp biomicroscopy in live animals even 7 days after topical PEI2-GNP application to the cornea detected no inflammation, redness, or edema in rabbit eyes in vivo, with only moderate cell death and immune reactions. These results suggest that PEI2-GNP are safe for the cornea and can be potentially useful for corneal gene therapy in vivo.
Sharma A, Tandon A, Tovey JCK, et al. Polyethylenimine-conjugated gold nanoparticles: Gene transfer potential and low toxicity in the cornea. Nanomedicine. 2011;7(4):505-513. doi:10.1016/j.nano.2011.01.006.