RNAi – A GENETIC SILVER BULLET?

genetic-silver-bullet1Researchers are actively working on the use of genetics to cure malignant diseases such as cancer. Presently, treatment for cancer includes invasive and traumatic procedures affecting the patient such as chemotherapy and radiation without any guarantee that the disease will not recur. One of the most sought after remedies is based on RNA interference (RNAi) which is a system within living cells which helps to treat diseases and discover the function of genes and plays an important role in the chemistry of life.

Fire and Mellow won the Nobel Prize in this field of RNAi, and since then, it has become the next major drug development platform for improving health care. Science declared it to be the breakthrough of the year in 2002. In fact, giant pharmaceutical companies such as Merck, Pfizer, Roche, etc., are signing deals worth $1 billion each with RNAi start-up companies, just based on patent licensing and pre-clinical studies.

Unfortunately, the number of cancer cases is increasing alarmingly in the Western world and in the 21st century, there is still no efficient treatment for cancer, since the technology used today has not changed for the past generations. Hence, it is encouraging to know that drugs based on RNAi are slowly emerging with encouraging results in clinical trials and have succeeded in halting the growth of cancer tumors, however, the journey to RNAi medicine remains tortuous and long.

The main challenge of initiating this type of treatment is focused on the delivery of new drugs based on RNAi to target cells. Whether the methods of administration range from oral to intravenous, the results have been poor even when used with advanced carriers such as nano-particles. Fortunately, the research engines are working overtime every day to come up with the most efficient delivery system, and when this happens, medical treatment of major diseases will have made a huge leap forward.

Cancer is a complex genetic disease that differs from patient to patient.  One day, maybe in the not too distant future, drug delivery based on RNAi will be tailored to an individual patient and to a particular cancerous tumor so that medicine of tomorrow will be personalized. Although this technology is still in its infancy, doctors, researchers and also engineers are working hard in their proverbial well-equipped laboratories to eradicate malignant diseases affecting the world. The path of turning a promising idea into an effective therapy is slowly unfolding so that maybe, one day, we will end up living as long as trees (Isaiah 65:17-25).

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