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New RNAi tools enable systematic studies of gene function

An international public-private research team led by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard announced today the construction and availability of an extensive library of molecular reagents to silence most human and mouse genes.

As described in the March 24 issue of Cell, this library consists of small RNA molecules that can switch off genes individually, allowing the user to dissect the genetic underpinnings of normal biology and disease. These RNA-interference (RNAi)-based gene inhibitors are packaged in lentiviruses, enabling their use in virtually all types of human and mouse cells. This work springs from the RNAi Consortium (TRC), a unique collaboration among academic research institutions and leading life science companies with the mission to build comprehensive RNAi libraries and make them available to scientists worldwide.

"Switching off a single gene through RNAi reveals how that gene functions in a particular biological process. When RNAi's potential is applied to thousands of genes ?as it has been in fruit flies and nematodes ?it can provide a more complete picture of that process," said David Root, a senior author of the Cell paper and the director of TRC and the RNAi platform at the Broad Institute. "Thanks to this unique public-private effort, we now have new tools to enable the entire research community to realize the potential of RNAi in the two most important species in biomedicine."

"The RNAi library developed by TRC is a rich resource for biological discovery," said Nir Hacohen, assistant professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, associate member of the Broad Institute and a senior author. "Ongoing studies in my own laboratory to understand how the immune system senses pathogens and appropriately targets its response will be accelerated using these tools."

RNAi gives scientists the ability to turn off an individual gene. Its workhorses are small RNA molecules, each of which i
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Source:Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard


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