Congenital diseases account for a large portion of pediatric illness. Prenatal screening and diagnosis permit early detection of many genetic diseases. Fetal therapeutic strategies to manage disease processes in utero represent a powerful new approach for clinical care. A safe and effective fetal pharmacotherapy designed to modulate gene expression ideally would avoid direct mechanical engagement of the fetus and present an external reservoir of drug. The amniotic cavity surrounding the fetus could serve as an ideal drug reservoir. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are an established tool for the therapeutic modulation of gene expression. We hypothesize that ASOs administered to the amniotic cavity will gain entry to the fetus and modulate gene expression. Here, we show that an ASO targeting MALAT1 RNA, delivered by transuterine microinjection into the mouse amniotic cavity at embryonic day 13-13.5, reduces target RNA expression for up to 4 weeks after birth. A similarly delivered ASO targeting a causal splice site mutation for Usher syndrome corrects gene expression in the inner ear, a therapeutically relevant target tissue. We conclude that intra-amniotic delivery of ASOs is well tolerated and produces a sustained effect on postnatal gene expression. Transuterine delivery of ASOs is an innovative platform for developing fetal therapeutics to efficaciously treat congenital disease.
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