Polyethylenimine (PEI) is a cationic polymer capable of delivering DNA molecules into cultured mammalian cells as charge complexes. The application of PEI polyplexes in gene therapy, however, is hampered by the sensitivity of its transfection activity to the presence of serum. We found that folic acid, in a variety of cell lines, significantly enhanced PEI-mediated transfection activity in the presence of serum, whether the folic acid was added during or after PEI/DNA polyplex formation. The increase in activity could not be produced with other anionic compounds such as cholic acid, citric acid, EDTA, or glutamic acid. This novel formulation provides a reliable, low-cost, and highly efficient method for delivery of genes and may have applications in gene therapy.
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