RNA interference for antiviral therapy

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Silencing gene expression through a process known as RNA interference (RNAi) has been known in the plant world for many years. In recent years, knowledge of the prevalence of RNAi and the mechanism of gene silencing through RNAi has started to unfold. It is now believed that RNAi serves in part as an innate response against invading viral pathogens and, indeed, counter silencing mechanisms aimed at neutralizing RNAi have been found in various viral pathogens. During the past few years, it has been demonstrated that RNAi, induced by specifically designed double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) molecules, can silence gene expression of human viral pathogens both in acute and chronic viral infections. Furthermore, it is now apparent that in in vitro and in some in vivo models, the prospects for this technology in developing therapeutic applications are robust. However, many key questions and obstacles in the translation of RNAi into a potential therapeutic platform still remain, including the specificity and longevity of the silencing effect, and, most importantly, the delivery of the dsRNA that induces the system. It is expected that for the specific examples in which the delivery issue could be circumvented or resolved, RNAi may hold promise for the development of gene-specific therapeutics. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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