Gene therapy, the correction of dysfunctional or deleted genes by supplying the lacking component, has long been awaited as a means to permanently treat or reverse many genetic disorders. To achieve this, therapeutic DNA must be delivered to the nucleus of cells using a safe and efficient delivery vector. Although viral-based vectors have been utilized extensively due to their innate ability to deliver DNA to intact cells, safety considerations, such as pathogenicity, oncogenicity and the stimulation of an immunological response in the host, remain problematical. There has, however, been much progress in the development of safe non-viral gene-delivery vectors, although they remain less efficient than the viral counterparts. The major limitations of non-viral gene transfer reside in the fact that it must be tailored to overcome the intracellular barriers to DNA delivery that viruses already master, including the cellular and nuclear membranes. In particular, nuclear transport of the therapeutic DNA is known to be the rate-limiting step in the gene-delivery process. Despite this, much progress had been made in recent years in developing novel means to overcome these barriers and efficiently deliver DNA to the nuclei of intact cells. This review focuses on the nucleocytoplasmic delivery of DNA and mechanisms to enhance to non-viral-mediated gene transfer.

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