Nebulised delivery of RNA formulations to the lungs: From aerosol to cytosol

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Neary, Michael T.
Mulder, Lianne M.
Kowalski, Piotr S.
MacLoughlin, Ronan
Crean, Abina M.
Ryan, Katie B.
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In the past decade RNA-based therapies such as small interfering RNA (siRNA) and messenger RNA (mRNA) have emerged as new and ground-breaking therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of many conditions from viral infection to cancer. Most clinically approved RNA therapies are parenterally administered which impacts patient compliance and adds to healthcare costs. Pulmonary administration via inhalation is a non-invasive means to deliver RNA and offers an attractive alternative to injection. Nebulisation is a particularly appealing method due to the capacity to deliver large RNA doses during tidal breathing. In this review, we discuss the unique physiological barriers presented by the lung to efficient nebulised RNA delivery and approaches adopted to circumvent this problem. Additionally, the different types of nebulisers are evaluated from the perspective of their suitability for RNA delivery. Furthermore, we discuss recent preclinical studies involving nebulisation of RNA and analysis in in vitro and in vivo settings. Several studies have also demonstrated the importance of an effective delivery vector in RNA nebulisation therefore we assess the variety of lipid, polymeric and hybrid-based delivery systems utilised to date. We also consider the outlook for nebulised RNA medicinal products and the hurdles which must be overcome for successful clinical translation. In summary, nebulised RNA delivery has demonstrated promising potential for the treatment of several lung-related conditions such as asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis, to which the mode of delivery is of crucial importance for clinical success.
Nebulisation , RNA , Oligonucleotides , Lung , Pulmonary delivery , Nanoparticles
Neary, M.T., Mulder, L.M., Kowalski, P.S., MacLoughlin, R., Crean, A.M. and Ryan, K.B. (2024) ‘Nebulised delivery of RNA formulations to the lungs: From aerosol to cytosol’, Journal of Controlled Release, 366, pp. 812–833. Available at:
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