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Is RNAi the future therapeutic approach for tackling
September 12, 2002 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Is RNAi the future therapeutic approach for tackling everything from AIDS to cancer. Already it is being touted as a molecular biological panacea. A lot of research has been carried out in vitro , just those crucial human trials to go.
posted by johnnyboy (8 comments total)

 
here is the link, sorry.
posted by johnnyboy at 6:03 AM on September 12, 2002


...first Dr Rossi will have to conduct a series of safety experiments on animals...

they are optimistically gearing up for human trials, but, according to the article, they haven't actually gone past the test tube yet.
posted by originalname37 at 6:37 AM on September 12, 2002


oh my god, i first read that as "Is RIAA the future..."
posted by quonsar at 8:11 AM on September 12, 2002


the point about RNAi is that it can knock out any gene. Including vital ones. I think it's the most frightening technology I have ever heard of.
posted by alloneword at 10:55 AM on September 12, 2002


the point about RNAi is that it can knock out any gene. Including vital ones. I think it's the most frightening technology I have ever heard of.

Really? Have you heard of nuclear weapons? Nerve gas? Shotguns? There are innumerably many technologies which are dangerous when misapplied. Hell, chemotherapy agents are serious toxins, but the risks associated with their use are worth countenancing when fighting cancer: these toxins have saved millions of lives. What kind of scenario are you imagining that makes RNAi therapy so frightening to you? A mad doctor who sneaks into your bedroom at night and injects you with some malicious RNAi agent? If so, you have bigger things to worry about. RNAi is no more "frightening" than any pharmaceutical agent, and will be subject to the same process of safety certification that all pharmaceutical agents are subject to.

they are optimistically gearing up for human trials, but, according to the article, they haven't actually gone past the test tube yet.

Actually, according to the article, the technology has been tested in at least two in vivo systems: petunias and nematodes, as well as in mammalian cell culture. Granted, this falls short of mammalian in vivo testing or clinical trials, but it is significantly past the "test tube" stage.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2002


mr_roboto, though knocking out vital genes is no scarier than any other poison or method of killing, the theoretical possibility of knocking out particular alleles of genes is. It eliminates the current major drawback of biological weapons: lack of specificity.

Also, you're right about the in vivo systems. I couldn't get the Nature link to work at first and assumed that since the link said "in vitro", I didn't have to worry about it.
posted by originalname37 at 11:55 AM on September 12, 2002


originalname37, the thing is, I'm not sure there are any "vital" genes that have particular alleles isolated to specific ethnic groups or nationalities. Genetics doesn't seem to work that way; variations that exist tend to exist even within a given ethnic group. Unless an army breeds a race of soldiers known to be free of a specific target allele, there will never be the kind of specificity you're worried about. And delivery remains a problem: it looks like gene therapy will function on a patient-by-patient scale, maybe even by extracting cells from a patient, treating them in culture, and reintroducing them. It's not the kind of thing that you can spread with a virus. And as long as we're talking about imaginary delivery technologies, I don't see why RNAi is any more frightening than any other aspect of genetic engineering. In theory, you could engineer a virus that would only attack people with a specific allele, and RNAi would never come into play at all. In theory. In theory, communism works. In theory.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:08 PM on September 12, 2002


I'm not sure there are any "vital" genes that have particular alleles isolated to specific ethnic groups or nationalities

I'm not sure either. I'm just imagining that among the great many polymorphism still to be discovered, there may, strictly by chance, be an allele of a vital gene that is predominant on one side of an argument and not the other.

It's not like there aren't already known vital genes whose allies are geographically correlated. The best known would be those associated with blood type and the major histocompatibility complex.

One thing that I want to make clear, though, is that I don't personally find RNAi scarry at all. The clear benefits obviously outweigh the not-so-likely-in-the-foreseeable-future drawbacks. I was just trying to come up with a sensical interpretation of what alloneword was trying to say.
posted by originalname37 at 1:42 PM on September 12, 2002


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