In the last 15 years, scientists have realized that short pieces of double-stranded RNA, called silencing-RNA, use a pathway that is normally used by cells to regulate genes. This has created an opportunity for developing highly targeted therapies for a number of genetic diseases including macular degeneration in the eye and to block viruses such as herpes and RSV respiratory viruses. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time it has been used to correct a dominant negative disorder in a living animal, says Patton.
The researchers realized that the messenger-RNA that produced the defective hormone had a unique signature created by skipping the third exon. This allowed the Patton lab to create a specific silencing-RNA, designed to bind uniquely with the defective messenger-RNA.
You might call this the if you dont like the message, kill the messenger approach, Phillips quips.
Having created the special silencing-RNA, the next problem was how to deliver it to the pituitary gland which, in the case of the mouse, is the size of a grain of uncooked rice and is located at the base of the brain. As a proof of concept, the researchers decided to create a second strain of mouse which carried the special silencing-RNA and mate them with the growth deficiency strain. Their offspring should have both the genetic defect that produces the defective growth hormone and the silencing-RNA that should inhibit its production, allowing the mouse growth hormone to act.
The experiment was successful. The offspring grew normally and showed no defects in their pituitaries.
Now the researchers are investigating ways to deliver their silencing-RNA to the pituitary gland that would be suitable for treating humans. The cells that produce growth hormone have special receptors that signal the cells to release their stocks of growth hormone. If they can figure out a way to attach the silencing-RNAs to a compound that binds to this rece
|Contact: David F. Salisbury|