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  1. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are intensely researched for applications in cell therapeutics due to their unique properties, however, intrinsic therapeutic properties of hMSCs could be enhanced by genetic modification. Viral transduction is efficient, but suffers from safety issues. Conversely, nonviral gene delivery, while safer compared to viral, suffers from inefficiency and cytotoxicity, especially in hMSCs. To address the shortcomings of nonviral gene delivery to hMSCs, our lab has previously demonstrated that pharmacological ‘priming’ of hMSCs with the glucocorticoid dexamethasone can significantly increase transfection in hMSCs by modulating transfection-induced cytotoxicity. This work seeks to establish a library of transfection priming compounds for hMSCs by screening 707 FDA-approved drugs, belonging to diverse drug classes, from the NIH Clinical Collection at four concentrations for their ability to modulate nonviral gene delivery to adipose-derived hMSCs from two human donors. Results Microscope images of cells transfected with a fluorescent transgene were analyzed in order to identify compounds that significantly affected hMSC transfection without significant toxicity. Compound classes that increased transfection across both donors included glucocorticoids, antibiotics, and antihypertensives. Notably, clobetasol propionate, a glucocorticoid, increased transgene production 18-fold over unprimed transfection. Furthermore, compound classes that decreased transfection across both donors included flavonoids, antibiotics, and antihypertensives, with the flavonoid epigallocatechin gallate decreasing transgene production − 41-fold compared to unprimed transfection. Conclusions Our screen of the NCC is the first high-throughput and drug-repurposing approach to identify nonviral gene delivery priming compounds in two donors of hMSCs. Priming compounds and classes identified in this screen suggest that modulation of proliferation, mitochondrial function, and apoptosis is vital for enhancing nonviral gene delivery to hMSCs. 
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  2. Abstract

    Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) are under intense study for applications of cell and gene therapeutics because of their unique immunomodulatory and regenerative properties. Safe and efficient genetic modification of hMSCs could increase their clinical potential by allowing functional expression of therapeutic transgenes or control over behavior and differentiation. Viral gene delivery is efficient, but suffers from safety issues, while nonviral methods are safe, but highly inefficient, especially in hMSCs. Our lab previously demonstrated that priming cells before delivery of DNA complexes with dexamethasone (DEX), an anti‐inflammatory glucocorticoid drug, significantly increases hMSC transfection success. This work systematically investigates the mechanisms of hMSC transfection and DEX‐mediated enhancement of transfection. Our results show that hMSC transfection and its enhancement by DEX are decreased by inhibiting classical intracellular transport and nuclear import pathways, but DEX transfection priming does not increase cellular or nuclear internalization of plasmid DNA (pDNA). We also show that hMSC transgene expression is largely affected by pDNA promoter and enhancer sequence changes, but DEX‐mediated enhancement of transfection is unaffected by any pDNA sequence changes. Furthermore, DEX‐mediated transfection enhancement is not the result of increased transgene messenger RNA transcription or stability. However, DEX‐priming increases total protein synthesis by preventing hMSC apoptosis induced by transfection, resulting in increased translation of transgenic protein. DEX may also promote further enhancement of transgenic reporter enzyme activity by other downstream mechanisms. Mechanistic studies of nonviral gene delivery will inform future rationally designed technologies for safe and efficient genetic modification of clinically relevant cell types.

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