Nov 4, 2007

Power of ribonucleic acid – A new cure to AIDS and Cancer

RNA Interference

A new revolutions has begin in this concealed world of molecular biology for finding cures for dreaded diseases like AIDS, cancer, hepatitis and even common cold. The cutting edge technology, RNA interference has promising solution to beat these diseases.

Due to recent discovery RNA is now no more just a messenger which carries information from DNA to protein. Now it has been found that besides doing this, RNA molecules regulate many important processes.

DNA which carries the genetic code of an organism is made of sequence of chemical species called nitrogenous bases. These nitrogenous bases consists of A, T, G and C. Each DNA is has millions of such nitrogenous bases that may code for proteins. Not all the parts of DNA are functional. Only a small part of it codes for proteins which is called as gene. The rest of DNA called as junk DNA was thought to be non-functional. But it has been discovered that even these noncoding sequence are used to create small or micro RNA molecules.

There are hundreds of such microRNA or riboswithes, floating on the cell, which perform varieties of functions. They regulate what combines with what, they switch processes on and off, and they control rates of reactions.

Scientists say that there main task in intermediate future will to find out all the functions of these hundreds of RNA in the cell.

Some of the activities of RNA have been already deciphered. One of them is RNA interference (RNAi). It has been found that introducing a double stranded RNA produces a chain of reactions that results in destruction of mRNA or messenger RNA. This effectively silences the gene, which was sending out the messenger. It is based on naturally occurring process and is very precise.

Thus using RNAi can silence any gene and thereby stop the protein encoded by them. So it used to kill off viruses, or bacteria. It can be a great tool for silencing genes rogue genes e.g. genes that cause cancer. RNAi can also be used to study the functions of gene by switching it off and observing what effect is produced in the body.

Manipulation of gene or adding new genes to the genome by the methods till now is very difficult in case of animals then in plants due to complexity of their genome. By using RNAi, manipulation of gene can be done in much more effective way in case of animal too.

Research indicates that small RNA is involved in many other crucial tasks too. But discovery requires a long way to go. All experts agree that it's early days yet. One of the issues that the scientists are grabbling is how to introduce suitable short interfering RNA at the precise place so that it can silence the required gene.


Researchers say that they have only explored the surface layer and most still lies beneath the layer. But however scientists are using new IT tools to scan and catalogue molecules to drive research at a furious pace. At last it can be said that commercialization of RNA based medicines is already on the horizon.