SMALL RNAs HIT THE BIG TIME
A new way to silence human genes reported in this week’s Nature (Vol. 411 No. 6836, 24 May 2001) should prove a powerful tool to investigate gene function.
In the past few years, laboratories around the world have been abuzz with ‘RNA interference’ or RNAi, a potent technique for turning off the genes of model organisms at will. Nematode worms, for example, can be fed with RNA that silences specific genes inside their cells.
It had been thought that RNAi could not be used in mammalian cells. Thomas Tuschl, and colleagues, from the University of Gottingen in Germany, now show that short double-stranded RNAs or ‘siRNAs’ can indeed induce RNAi in human cells grown in culture. The researchers silence a selection of genes to prove their point.
This new methodology should help study the many genes of unknown function being identified in the continuing sequencing of the entire human genome. It may also open the way to therapeutic applications of siRNAs.
In an accompanying News and Views article, Brenda L. Bass of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, describes the results as "good news for cells and researchers".
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(C) Nature press release.
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