RNAi is a gene silencing technology that inhibits protein synthesis in target cells using double-stranded RNA. Same result is achieved by Antisense technology through single-stranded RNA.
- RNAi technologies are now known to formulate drugs capable of reducing cholesterol levels by half. The technology also finds immense importance in treating acute viral infections like acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), because of the well-studied life cycle and pattern of gene expression of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Promising results have been shown by Antisense technology in producing a variety of tomato, with increased shelf-life commonly known as Flavr Savr.
- It can be said that, in the near future, antisense technology could be used in targeting cancer.
Gene Silencing Technique:
- Gene silencing is a technique that aims to reduce or eliminate the production of a protein from its corresponding gene.
- It generally describe the “switching off” of a gene by a mechanism other than genetic modification
- It occurs when RNA is unable to make a protein during translation (gene expression).
- In the groundnut case, the researchers designed two small RNA molecules that silence the fungal genes which produce aflatoxin.
- When the fungus and plant come in contact with each other the small RNA molecules from the plant enter the fungus and prevent it from producing aflatoxin (protein) by its corresponding gene.
Constraints hampering the growth of these technologies in India:
- Very few companies working with these technologies in India.
- Poor translation of this nucleic-acid based therapy to clinical studies.
- Lack of efficient and targeted delivery vehicles for these potential RNA molecules. Though this is one of the objectives of a stand-alone programme on nano-biotechnology under the department of biotechnology, research gaps continue to exist.
- The relatively minimal development of silencing reagents that ensure significant, specific, consistent and lasting knockdown of the target gene.
India, in order to deal with these constraints, needs to develop domestic facilities focusing on nanotechnology-based targeted RNA-delivery product development.
Nanotechnology and RNAi:
- Nanotechnology being a multidisciplinary field must evoke cooperation and partnership among government ministries at both, the state as well as central level, private sector and research organizations.
- There has to be active collaboration with research institutions in Japan, Russia, the US and other early achievers in this space, in terms of the training and development of human resources at all the levels of government.
- Academic institutions and governmental agencies must organize nationwide seminars and symposiums to highlight the importance of nanotechnology in the fourth industrial revolution.
- India must also pay heed to enhancing its competence around bioinformatics.
- Conducive environment must be provided for Start-ups in the bioinformatics field to work on developing design algorithms for the development of safer, less toxic and more stable silencing reagents.
- Sustainable improvements in bioinformatics research would require an increased number of trained scientists becoming experts in the discipline.