Five years ago, I extolled the virtues of teaching a little bit about RNA interference (RNAi) in undergraduate A&P courses. But for a while it looked like the promise of RNAi in basic and clinical research might be sputtering. However, a recent article by Eric Bender called The Second Coming of RNAi shows that RNAi "the gene-silencing technique [now] begins to fulfill some of its promises."
I recommend reading the entire article at my-ap.us/1BbxvB9 Before you read it, allow me to reprise my reasons of five years ago supporting my proposal to include RNAi in your course.
What can we use from this in teaching undergraduate A&P?
- RNAi plays a role in defending our cells against viruses by stopping viral genetic code from being translated in host cells
- RNAi likely plays a role in regulating gene activity in a cell by preventing translation of the gene product(s)
- RNAi is increasingly used as method for "knocking out" a particular gene's effects in research animals in order to study the gene's functions
- RNAi is being used to treat genetic disease. . . an application that will likely expand greatly over the next few decades
I'll add two more items to my previous list:
- RNA interference is a mechanism of human disease, as has been demonstrated in some cases of inherited progressive hearing loss (for example).
- Learning about RNAi helps clarify a general understanding of the many roles played by RNA in our lives—some perhaps still undiscovered.
Want to know more?
- Eric Bender. The Scientist. September 1, 2014
- Article mentioned above. In plain English, it shows that clinical progress in RNAi therapy against liver diseases, the gene-silencing technique begins to fulfill some of its promises. Includes useful illustrations and links to other resources.
Why do we need to know about RNA interference?
- Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor. 14 April 2009
- My first article promoting the idea of teaching RNAi in the A&P course. It links to an expanded article with additional teaching resources.
RNA interference revisited
- Kevin Patton. The A&P Professor. 9 June 2009
- Brief follow-up article that references the role of RNA interference as a mechanism of human disease. Links to other resources.
RNA Interference Animation and Slideshow
- Nature Reviews Genetics. Accessed 3 September 2014
- FREE animation, slideshow, and poster on RNAi, as well as a link to more details.
RNA Interference BioInteractive
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Accessed 3 September 2014
- FREE slideshow with worksheet that students fill out as they view the slideshow. Links to FREE DVD from HMMI called The Double Life of RNA.