Molecular Medicine Israel

Fighting Viruses with RNAi

The long-debated issue of whether mammals can use RNA interference as an antiviral defense mechanism is finally put to rest

Plants, fungi, and invertebrates use RNA interference (RNAi) to fend off invading viruses. Mammals, on the other hand, are known to contain RNAi machinery, but researchers have never been able to prove that they use the molecular obstruction strategy for fighting viruses. Two papers published in Science  (October 10- 1, 2) provide the long-elusive evidence that indeed they do.

“There was controversy in the field as to whether or not RNAi ever acts as an antiviral response in mammals, and I think what is clear from these papers is that it does, in at least some laboratory conditions,” said Christopher Sullivan, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Texas in Austin, who was not involved in the work. “Now the argument will shift to when or if this matters in the wild,” he said…

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