Small RNA Molecules Are Ancient Kill Switches that Cause Cancer Cell Death, Study Reveals

Small RNA Molecules Are Ancient Kill Switches that Cause Cancer Cell Death, Study Reveals
A recent study reports that small RNA molecules, siRNAs and shRNAs, may contain sequences that simultaneously target multiple survival genes, which ultimately causes efficient cancer cell death. This discovery, eight years in the making, could eventually have an impact on multiple cancers. The study, "Many si/shRNAs can kill cancer cells by targeting multiple survival genes through an off-target mechanism," was published in eLife.  "Our research may be tapping into one of nature's original kill switches, and we hope the impact will affect many cancers," lead researcher Marcus Peter, professor of cancer metabolism at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release. In normal biology, DNA sequences representing genes are translated into matching RNA molecules. These RNA molecules are then transcribed into functioning proteins. But cells also have small RNA molecules, such as miRNAs, that do not originate proteins. Their function is to prevent other, larger RNA molecules from producing functional proteins. Once this discovery was made, small RNA molecules such as siRNAs and shRNAs were developed as a tool to study gene function. But one issue that has plagued studies with siRNAs or shRNAs is their non-specific, off-target effects. However, researchers have now discovered that some of these off-target effec
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