Design and Production of mRNA-based Gene Vectors for Therapeutic Reprogramming of Cell Fate

Oleg E Tolmachov and Tanya Tolmachova

Recent advances in therapeutically important cell fate reprogramming fuelled a renaissance in the use of mRNAbased gene vectors. Thus, mRNA vectors were successfully employed to induce lasting epigenetic changes in various target cells making them short-listed vector candidates for the manufacture of therapeutic engraftment materials for autologous transplantation, artificial human tissues for drug discovery via high-throughput screening projects and also for therapeutic cell trans-differentiation directly in the human body. De-differentiation of cells into ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’, transgene-directed differentiation and trans-differentiation require the simultaneous delivery of a number of regulatory factors, and, favourably, potent reprogramming vector cocktails can be straightforwardly assembled from a selection of mRNA species. In addition, several proteins can be conveniently expressed from a single mRNA using internal ribosome entry sites (IRESes) or, alternatively, fusion proteins supplemented with ‘polypeptide-cleaving’ ribosome skipping sequences. This review is focused on the design and production of cell-fate changing mRNAs.