Antisense-mediated splice intervention to treat human disease: the odyssey continues

Ianthe Pitout, Loren L. Flynn, Steve D. Wilton, Sue Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Recent approvals of oligonucleotide analogue drugs to alter gene expression have been welcomed by patient communities but not universally supported. These compounds represent a class of drugs that are designed to target a specific gene transcript, and they include a number of chemical entities to evoke different antisense mechanisms, depending upon the disease aetiology. To date, oligonucleotide therapeutics that are in the clinic or at advanced stages of translation target rare diseases, posing challenges to clinical trial design, recruitment and evaluation and requiring new evaluation paradigms. This review discusses the currently available and emerging therapeutics that alter exon selection through an effect on pre-mRNA splicing and explores emerging concerns over safety and efficacy. Although modification of synthetic nucleic acids destined for therapeutic application is common practice to protect against nuclease degradation and to influence drug function, such modifications may also confer unexpected physicochemical and biological properties. Negatively charged oligonucleotides have a strong propensity to bind extra- and intra-cellular proteins, whereas those analogues with a neutral backbone show inefficient cellular uptake but excellent safety profiles. In addition, the potential for incorporation of chemically modified nucleic acid monomers, yielded by nuclease degradation of exogenous oligonucleotides, into biomolecules has been raised and the possibility not entirely discounted. We conclude with a commentary on the ongoing efforts to develop novel antisense compounds and enhance oligonucleotide delivery in order to further improve efficacy and accelerate implementation of antisense therapeutics for human disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number710
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2019


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