Theranostics. 2023 Aug 21;13(13):4667-4693. doi: 10.7150/thno.87316. eCollection 2023.
RNA-based therapeutics have shown great promise in various medical applications, including cancers, infectious diseases, and metabolic diseases. The recent success of mRNA vaccines for combating the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the medical value of RNA drugs. However, one of the major challenges in realizing the full potential of RNA drugs is to deliver RNA into specific organs and tissues in a targeted manner, which is crucial for achieving therapeutic efficacy, reducing side effects, and enhancing overall treatment efficacy. Numerous attempts have been made to pursue targeting, nonetheless, the lack of clear guideline and commonality elucidation has hindered the clinical translation of RNA drugs. In this review, we outline the mechanisms of action for targeted RNA delivery systems and summarize four key factors that influence the targeting delivery of RNA drugs. These factors include the category of vector materials, chemical structures of vectors, administration routes, and physicochemical properties of RNA vectors, and they all notably contribute to specific organ/tissue tropism. Furthermore, we provide an overview of the main RNA-based drugs that are currently in clinical trials, highlighting their design strategies and tissue tropism applications. This review will aid to understand the principles and mechanisms of targeted delivery systems, accelerating the development of future RNA drugs for different diseases.