What if we could change how our genes and cells respond to us? In 2006, two scientists sought to answer that question by studying nematodes. The results uncovered some intriguing phenomena that heavily influence medicine today.
How it Works
Genes create RNA, or ribonucleic acid. The compound bonds with other molecules to raise or lower the activity of those cells. In essence, RNA lets us tell cells what to do. If a cell normally produces protein, we can use RNA to prevent or decrease that function. By directing gene expression, scientists can directly impact what a cell does, and how it reacts to other functions happening in the body.
Oncologists are only now discovering the impact of RNA on cancer cells. Using a phenomenon known as gene silencing, RNA molecules can actually inhibit the growth of tumors. Through careful drug administration, and a skin biopsy of a tumor, scientists have been able to show that RNA was able to reach the tumor and was found to have either inhibited or stabilized growth in clinical trials.
As drugs are developed, researchers must carefully administer dosages to patients. Special care must be taken to determine whether the drug was given safely, and testing also looks at side effects. These effects may not be immediately present, so long studies are ordered to determine whether or not the final product will be as effective as scientists currently believe.
RNA represents a significant breakthrough in bio-medical science. By providing cells with instructions, we can directly impact how a patient recovers from serious illness.