Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why do we need to know about RNA interference?

RNA interference

I was recently asked why our A&P textbook (Anatomy & Physiology 7ed) includes information about RNA interference (RNAi) while most other A&P textbooks do not. Why do students need to know about that?

This question is almost certainly triggered by the questioner's years of experience teaching A&P successfully without mentioning RNAi or its roles in human biology. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Good advice in general, I guess, but this maxim does not apply to the idea that we need to continually update our courses in order to serve our students well.

The recent discovery of RNAi and its functions is one reason it has been slow to enter the commonly taught A&P curriculum. But its important role in human biology is now widely recognized.

So, here are a few (of many) reasons that including RNAi in an A&P course is useful:
  • 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

Please see the expanded version of this article at The A&P Professor website for

  • A brief description of RNA interference (RNAi)

  • MORE reasons RNAi is important to A&P students

  • FREE videos and other resources your students can use to learn about RNAi

  • A LIST of chapter and page references to RNAi in Anatomy & Physiology 7ed
    (there is a great diagram of RNAi in the book!)

  • Various links to information about RNAi

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