Scientists from the RIKEN Tsukuba Institute (Japan) have developed a valuable new experimental system for tissue-specific RNAi knockdown in mammalian cells and organisms – a discovery that will markedly advance the functional characterization of genes involved in development and disease.
Discovered in the late nineties, RNA intereference (RNAi) refers to the introduction of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) into a cell, where it induces the degradation of complementary mRNA, and thereby suppresses gene expression. RNAi has proven to be a powerful tool in the elucidation of gene function in organisms ranging from worms, to plants and fruit flies.
However, the use of RNAi in mammals has been complicated by the antiviral response of mammalian cells to dsRNA. The presence of foreign dsRNA in a mammalian cell initiates the so-called "interferon response:" the non-specific degradation of mRNA, and ensuing death of the cell. Mammalian RNAi researchers have undertaken a few different routes to avoid eliciting the interferon response, and while some have been successful, none have been able to accomplish it in a tissue-specific manner. Until now.
Heather Cosel | EurekAlert!
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Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
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University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
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