Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are recognized therapeutic agents for the modulation of specific genes at the post-transcriptional level. Similar to any medical drugs, there are opportunities to improve their efficacy and safety. Here we develop a short DNA/RNA heteroduplex oligonucleotide (HDO) with a structure different from double-stranded RNA used for short interfering RNA and single-stranded DNA used for ASO. A DNA/locked nucleotide acid gapmer duplex with an α-tocopherol-conjugated complementary RNA (Toc-HDO) is significantly more potent at reducing the expression of the targeted mRNA in liver compared with the parent single-stranded gapmer ASO. Toc-HDO also improves the phenotype in disease models more effectively. In addition, the high potency of Toc-HDO results in a reduction of liver dysfunction observed in the parent ASO at a similar silencing effect. HDO technology offers a novel concept of therapeutic oligonucleotides, and the development of this molecular design opens a new therapeutic field.
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