Nat Rev Mater. 2023 Jan 19:1-19. doi: 10.1038/s41578-022-00529-7. Online ahead of print.
Genetic drugs based on nucleic acid biomolecules are a rapidly emerging class of medicines that directly reprogramme the central dogma of biology to prevent and treat disease. However, multiple biological barriers normally impede the intracellular delivery of nucleic acids, necessitating the use of a delivery system. Lipid and polymer nanoparticles represent leading approaches for the clinical translation of genetic drugs. These systems circumnavigate biological barriers and facilitate the intracellular delivery of nucleic acids in the correct cells of the target organ using passive, active and endogenous targeting mechanisms. In this Review, we highlight the constituent materials of these advanced nanoparticles, their nucleic acid cargoes and how they journey through the body. We discuss targeting principles for liver delivery, as it is the organ most successfully targeted by intravenously administered nanoparticles to date, followed by the expansion of these concepts to extrahepatic (non-liver) delivery. Ultimately, this Review connects emerging materials and biological insights playing key roles in targeting specific organs and cells in vivo.