Lipid nanoparticle-mediated messenger RNA delivery for ex vivo engineering of natural killer cells

Stefania Douka a, Lisa E. Brandenburg a, Cristina Casadidio a b, Johanna Walther a, Bianca Bonetto Moreno Garcia a c, Jan Spanholtz d, Monica Raimo d, Wim E. Hennink a, Enrico Mastrobattista a, Massimiliano Caiazzo a e

Published: September 2023

Natural killer (NK) cells participate in the immune system by eliminating cancer and virally infected cells through germline-encoded surface receptors. Their independence from prior activation as well as their significantly lower toxicity have placed them in the spotlight as an alternative to T cells for adoptive cell therapy (ACT). Engineering NK cells with mRNA has shown great potential in ACT by enhancing their tumor targeting and cytotoxicity. However, mRNA transfection of NK cells is challenging, as the most common delivery methods, such as electroporation, show limitations. Therefore, an alternative non-viral delivery system that enables high mRNA transfection efficiency with preservation of the cell viability would be beneficial for the development of NK cell therapies. In this study, we investigated both polymeric and lipid nanoparticle (LNP) formulations for eGFP-mRNA delivery to NK cells, based on a dimethylethanolamine and diethylethanolamine polymeric library and on different ionizable lipids, respectively. The mRNA nanoparticles based on cationic polymers showed limited internalization by NK cells and low transfection efficiency. On the other hand, mRNA-LNP formulations were optimized by tailoring the lipid composition and the microfluidic parameters, resulting in a high transfection efficiency (∼100%) and high protein expression in NK cells. In conclusion, compared to polyplexes and electroporation, the optimized LNPs show a greater transfection efficiency and higher overall eGFP expression, when tested in NK (KHYG-1) and T (Jurkat) cell lines, and cord blood-derived NK cells. Thus, LNP-based mRNA delivery represents a promising strategy to further develop novel NK cell therapies.

Full Access Link: Journal of Controlled Release