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RNA engineering to combat series of illnesses wins Kaye Award for Hebrew University dean
Date:6/26/2008

Research that has yielded success in controlling certain errors in gene expression as a safer and more effective alternative to conventional drugs has won for Prof. Hermona Soreq, dean of the Faculty of Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of this year's Kaye Innovation Awards.

The awards, presented annually during the Hebrew University's Board of Governors meeting, were presented on June 4 during the 71st meeting of the board.

The concept behind Prof. Soreq's work lies in coping with situations involving over or under expression of certain genes. Through development of state-of-the-art technologies, she and her research partners have succeeded in manipulating the RNA that translates cholinesterase genes from DNA into the cholinesterase proteins that control body-to-brain and brain-to body communication and are therefore very important.

Essentially, all the drugs known today are aimed at blocking the activities of proteins which are in excess in the body. This, says Prof. Soreq -- who is also the Slesinger Professor of Molecular Biology at the Hebrew University is "economically" wrong, because these drugs must target a large number of molecules (the proteins). This requires relatively large quantities of the required drugs, with the accompanying danger of unwanted side effects.

On the other hand, says Prof. Soreq, one doesn't want to hamper the genes that are at the top of the "pyramid" of the process leading to the production of the proteins, because this could endanger the next generation of cells to be produced. The third possibility, she continues, is to deal with the central part of the "pyramid" the RNA level. The RNA can be cloned and engineered to be expressed in various cells or tissues, adding protein if needed. Or, conversely, the RNA can be engineered to block a particular gene from being expressed, and thus prevent production of the unwanted excess of such protein.

Prof. Soreq's invent
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Contact: Rebecca Zeffert
rebeccaz@savion.huji.ac.il
972-025-881-641
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Source:Eurekalert

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