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Herbs & Plants

Nicotiana benthamiana

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Botanical Name: Nicotiana benthamiana
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Nicotiana
Species:N. benthamiana
Kingdom:Plantae
Order: Solanales

Synonyms: Nicotiana suaveolens var. cordifolia

Common indigenous names: Tjuntiwari and Muntju. Tangungnu, Ngkwerlp-pweter, Pinapitilypa, Tjiknga, Munju, Pirnki-warnu, Turlkamula

Habitat :Nicotiana benthamiana is native to Australia.It is found amongst rocks on hills and cliffs throughout the northern regions of Australia.

Description:
Nicotiana benthamiana is an erect, sometimes sprawling, annual herbaceous plant. This short-lived herb will reach from 0.65-5 feet (0.2-1.5 m) tall. Grown in containers, the plants rarely reach over 18 inches (0.45 m) tall by about half as wide. The dark green, broadly ovate leaves will reach up to 4 inches (10 cm) wide by 5 inches (12.7 cm) long. We selected this plant to use for TMV research because it is very susceptible to all kinds of viruses. Plants are easy to grow and we always keep several different ages of plants available at all times.

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Blooming: In the greenhouse, plants flower all year round, but in nature, they normally bloom from May-September. The small, white flowers are 3/8 inch (1 cm) across by 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long.

A vigorous plant with numerous erect leafy stems. Its alternate leaves are broadly egg-shaped, dull green and soft. Except at the top of the stems, where they are stalkless, its leaves have slender stalks. Flowers are whitish, with a long, slender tube and five blunt lobes; fruits are capsules containing many pitted seeds.

This plant is a close relative of tobacco and species of Nicotiana indigenous to Australia.The plant was used by peoples of Australia as a stimulant – it contains nicotine and other alkaloids – before the introduction of commercial tobacco (N.tabacum and N.rustica). It was first collected on the north coast of Australia by Benjamin Bynoe on a voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle in 1837.

Cultivation:
Nicotiana benthamiana need full sun to partial shade using a well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 1 part coarse sand or perlite. Since we grow these plants for research, they are given water on a daily basis to keep them stress free. They are fertilized weekly with a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. Since we have to have these plants for research, once they set seed, plants are discarded. During the winter months, we use supplemental lighting to keep the plants growing strong.

Propagation: Nicotiana benthamiana is best propagated from seed.
Medicinal Uses:
The scientists have shown that transgenic versions of a plant Nicotiana benthamiana, also known as ‘Tjuntiwari’ in the native language, may be able to produce large quantities of a protein griffithsin which can be used as an anti-HIV microbicide gel.The protein has shown capabilities of neutralizing HIV as it binds to the virus molecule in such a way that the virus could not disguise itself from the immune system of humans.

Anti-HIV microbicide gel directly targets entry of the virus and averts infection at the surfaces but at present they are being produced using biologicals like bacteria E.coli, an expensive process which is not cost-effective.

The researchers from USA and UK altered the genetic nature of the plant using a tobacco mosaic virus which produced the protein griffithsin.(Published in The Times Of India)

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotiana_benthamiana
http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week425.shtml
http://biolinfo.org/cmkb/view.php?comname=cmkb_public&scid=412

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Ailmemts & Remedies

SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome)

Description:
SARS, or Severe acute respiratory syndrome, is the disease caused by SARS coronavirus. It causes an often severe illness marked initially by systemic symptoms of muscle pain, headache, and fever, followed in 2–10 days by the onset of respiratory symptoms,[3] mainly cough, dyspnea, and pneumonia. Another common finding in SARS patients is a decrease in the number of lymphocytes circulating in the blood.

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Virus classification:-

Group: Group IV ((+)ssRNA)

Order: Nidovirales

Family: Coronaviridae

Genus: Coronavirus

Species: SARS coronavirus

SARS coronavirus is a positive and single stranded RNA virus belonging to a family of enveloped coronaviruses. Its genome is about 29.7kb, which is one of the largest among RNA viruses. The SARS virus has 13 known genes and 14 known proteins. There are 265bp in the 5’UTR and 342bp in the 3’UTR. SARS is similar to other coronaviruses in that its genome expression starts with translation of two large ORFs 1a and 1b, which are two polyproteins.

The functions of several of these proteins are known:  ORFs 1a and 1b encode the replicase and there are four major structural proteins: nucleocapsid, spike, membrane and envelope. It also encodes for eight unique proteins, known as the accessory proteins, with no known homologues. The function of these accessory proteins remains unknown.
In the SARS outbreak of 2003, about 9% of patients with confirmed SARS infection died. The mortality rate was much higher for those over 50 years old, with mortality rates approaching 50% for this subset of patients.

Coronaviruses usually express pp1a (the ORF1a polyprotein) and the PP1ab polyprotein with joins ORF1a and ORF1b. The polyproteins are then processed by enzymes that are encoded by ORF1a. Product proteins from the processing includes various replicative enzymes such as RNA dependent polymerase, RNA helicase, and proteinase. The replication complex in coronavirus is also responsible for the synthesis of various mRNAs downstream of ORF 1b, which are structural and accessory proteins. Two different proteins, 3CLpro and PL2pro, cleave the large polyproteins into 16 smaller subunits.

SARS-Coronavirus follows the replication strategy typical of the Coronavirus genus.

In the SARS outbreak of 2003, about 9% of patients with confirmed SARS infection died. The mortality rate was much higher for those over 50 years old, with mortality rates approaching 50% for this subset of patients.

Causes:
SARS is caused by a strain of coronavirus, the same family of viruses that causes the common cold. Until now, these viruses have never been particularly dangerous in humans, although they can cause severe disease in animals. For that reason, scientists originally thought that the SARS virus might have crossed from animals to humans. It now seems likely that it evolved from one or more animal viruses into a completely new strain.
 
How do SARS spread:
Most respiratory illnesses, including SARS, spread through droplets that enter the air when someone with the disease coughs, sneezes or talks. Most experts think SARS spreads mainly through face-to-face contact, but the virus also may be spread on contaminated objects — such as doorknobs, telephones and elevator buttons.

Symptoms:
Once a person has contracted SARS, the first symptom that they present with is a fever of at least 38°C (100.4°F) or higher. The early symptoms last about 2–7 days and include non-specific flu-like symptoms, including chills/rigor, muscle aches, headaches, diarrhea, sore throat, runny nose, malaise, and myalgia (muscle pain). Next, they develop a dry cough, shortness of breath, and an upper respiratory tract infection.

SARS typically begins with flu-like signs and symptoms — signs and symptoms include:

*Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher
* Dry cough
*Shortness of breath

Complications:
The main complication of SERS  is that most people develop pneumonia. Breathing problems can become so severe that a mechanical respirator is required. SARS is fatal in some cases, often due to respiratory failure. Other possible complications include heart and liver failure.

People older than the age of 60 — especially those with underlying conditions such as diabetes or hepatitis — are at highest risk of serious complications.

Risk Factors:
In general, people at greatest risk of SARS have had direct, close contact with someone who’s infected, such as family members and health care workers.

Diagnosis:
At that time, a chest x-ray is ordered to confirm pneumonia. If the chest appears clear and SARS is still suspected, a HRCT scan will be ordered, because it is visible earlier on this scan. In severe cases, it develops into respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and in 70-90% of the cases, they develop lymphopenia (low count of lymphocyte white blood cells).

The incubation period for SARS-CoV is from 2–10 days, sometimes lasting up to 13 days, with a mean of 5 days.  So symptoms usually develop between 2–10 days following infection by the virus. As part of the immune response, IgM antibody to the SARS-CoV is produced. This peaks during the acute or early convalescent phase (week 3) and declines by week 12. IgG antibody is produced later and peaks at week 12.

Tests:
When SARS first surfaced, no specific tests were available to help doctors diagnose the disease. Now several laboratory tests can help detect the virus. But no known transmission of SARS has occurred anywhere in the world since 2004.

Treatment:
Although global efforts are still on, scientists have not yet found out any effective treatment for SARS. Antibiotic drugs don’t work against viruses and antiviral drugs haven’t shown much benefit.

Prevention:
Researchers are working on several types of vaccines for SARS, but none has been tested in humans.Engineering of SARS virus has been done. In a paper published in 2006, a new transcription circuit was engineered to make recombinant SARS viruses. The recombination allowed for efficient expression of viral transcripts and proteins. The engineering of this transcription circuit reduces the RNA recombinant progeny viruses. The TRS (transcription regulatory sequences) circuit regulates efficient expression of SARS-CoV subgenomic mRNAs. The wild type TRS is ACGAAC.

A double mutation results in TRS-1 (ACGGAT) and a triple mutation results in TRS-2 (CCGGAT). When the remodeled TRS circuit containing viruses are genetically recombined with wild type TRS circuits, the result is a circuit reduced in production of subgenomic mRNA. The goal of modifying the SARS virus with this approach is to produce chimeric progeny that have reduced viability due to the incompatibility of the WT and engineered TRS circuits.

Novel subunit vaccine constructs for an S protein SARS vaccine based on the receptor binding domain (RBD) are being developed by the New York Blood Center. The re-emergence of SARS is possible, and the need remains for commercial vaccine and therapeutic development. However, the cost and length of time for product development, and the uncertain future demand, result in unfavorable economic conditions to accomplish this task. In the development of therapeutics and next-generation vaccines, more work is required to determine the structure/ function relationships of critical enzymes and structural proteins.

If SARS infections resume, follow these safety guidelines if you’re caring for an infected person:

 *Wash your hands. Clean your hands frequently with soap and hot water or use an alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60 percent alcohol.

* Wear disposable gloves. If you have contact with the person’s body fluids or feces, wear disposable gloves. Throw the gloves away immediately after use and wash your hands thoroughly.

* Wear a surgical mask. When you’re in the same room as a person with SARS, cover your mouth and nose with a surgical mask. Wearing eye glasses also may offer some protection.

* Wash personal items. Use soap and hot water to wash the utensils, towels, bedding and clothing of someone with SARS.

* Disinfect surfaces. Use a household disinfectant to clean any surfaces that may have been contaminated with sweat, saliva, mucus, vomit, stool or urine. Wear disposable gloves while you clean and throw the gloves away when you’re done.

Follow all precautions for at least 10 days after the person’s signs and symptoms have disappeared. Keep children home from school if they develop a fever or respiratory symptoms within 10 days of being exposed to someone with SARS. Children can return to school if signs and symptoms go away after three days.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SARS_coronavirus
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sars/DS00501/DSECTION=prevention

Categories
Ailmemts & Remedies Pediatric

Croup

Alternative Names: Viral croup; Laryngotracheobronchitis – acute; Spasmodic croup

Definition:
Croup  is a respiratory condition that is usually triggered by an acute viral infection of the upper airway. The infection leads to swelling inside the throat, which interferes with normal breathing and produces the classical symptoms of a “barking” cough, stridor, and hoarseness. It may produce mild, moderate, or severe symptoms, which often worsen at night.

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The barking cough of croup is the result of inflammation around the vocal cords (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). When the cough reflex forces air through this narrowed passage, the vocal cords vibrate with a barking noise. Because children have small airways to begin with, those younger than age 5 are most susceptible to having more-marked symptoms with croup.

Croup typically occurs between the ages of six months and six years, but the peak age is two and it’s less common after three. Children with asthma may get repeated episodes.

Croup usually isn’t serious. Most cases of croup can be treated at home. Sometimes, your child will need prescription medication.

Once due primarily to diphtheria, this cause is now primarily of historical significance in the Western world due to the success of vaccination.

Croup affects about 15% of children, and usually presents between the ages of 6 months and 5–6 years. It accounts for about 5% of hospital admissions in this population. In rare cases, it may occur in children as young as 3 months and as old as 15 years. Males are affected 50% more frequently than are females, and there is an increased prevalence in autumn (fall).

History:
The word croup comes from the Early Modern English verb croup, meaning “to cry hoarsely”; the name was first applied to the disease in Scotland and popularized in the 18th century. Diphtheritic croup has been known since the time of Homer’s Ancient Greece and it was not until 1826 that viral croup was differentiated from croup due to diphtheria by Bretonneau. Viral croup was thus called “faux-croup” by the French, as “croup” then referred to a disease caused by the diphtheria bacteria. Croup due to diphtheria has become nearly unknown due to the advent of effective immunization

Symptoms:
Croup is characterized by a “barking” cough, stridor, hoarseness, and difficult breathing which usually worsens at night. The “barking” cough is often described as resembling the call of a seal or sea lion.

As the cough gets more frequent, the child may have labored breathing or stridor (a harsh, crowing noise made during inspiration).The stridor is worsened by agitation or crying, and if it can be heard at rest, it may indicate critical narrowing of the airways. As croup worsens, stridor may decrease considerably.

Other symptoms include fever, coryza (symptoms typical of the common cold), and chest wall indrawing. Drooling or a very sick appearance indicate other medical conditions

Rarely, croup can last for weeks. Croup that lasts longer than a week or recurs frequently should be discussed with your doctor to determine the cause.

Causes:
Viral croup is the most common. Other possible causes include bacteria, allergies, and inhaled irritants. Acid reflux from the stomach can trigger croup.

Croup is usually (75% of the time) caused by parainfluenza viruses, but RSV, measles, adenovirus, and influenza can all cause croup.

Before the era of immunizations and antibiotics, croup was a dreaded and deadly disease, usually caused by the diphtheria bacteria. Today, most cases of croup are mild. Nevertheless, it can still be dangerous.

Croup tends to appear in children between 3 months and 5 years old, but it can happen at any age. Some children are prone to croup and may get it several times.

In the northern hemisphere, it is most common between October and March, but can occur at any time of the year.

In severe cases of croup, there may also be a bacterial superinfection of the upper airway. This condition is called bacterial tracheitis and requires hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. If the epiglottis becomes infected, the entire windpipe can swell shut, a potentially fatal condition called epiglottitis.

Diagnosis:
Croup is a clinical diagnosis. The first step is to exclude other obstructive conditions of the upper airway, especially epiglottitis, an airway foreign body, subglottic stenosis, angioedema, retropharyngeal abscess, and bacterial tracheitis.

A frontal X-ray of the neck is not routinely performed, but if it is done, it may show a characteristic narrowing of the trachea, called the steeple sign. The steeple sign is suggestive of the diagnosis, but is absent in half of cases.

Other investigations (such as blood tests and viral culture) are discouraged as they may cause unnecessary agitation and thus worsen the stress on the compromised airway. While viral cultures, obtained via nasopharyngeal aspiration, can be used to confirm the exact cause, these are usually restricted to research settings. Bacterial infection should be considered if a person does not improve with standard treatment, at which point further investigations may be indicated

Severity:
The most commonly used system for classifying the severity of croup is the Westley score. It is primarily used for research purposes rather than in clinical practice. It is the sum of points assigned for five factors: level of consciousness, cyanosis, stridor, air entry, and retractions.The points given for each factor is listed in the table to the right, and the final score ranges from 0 to 17.

*A total score of ? 2 indicates mild croup. The characteristic barking cough and hoarseness may be present, but there is no stridor at rest.
*A total score of 3–5 is classified as moderate croup. It presents with easily heard stridor, but with few other signs.
*A total score of 6–11 is severe croup. It also presents with obvious stridor, but also features marked chest wall indrawing.
*A total score of ? 12 indicates impending respiratory failure. The barking cough and stridor may no longer be prominent at this stage.
85% of children presenting to the emergency department have mild disease; severe croup is rare (<1%).

Treatment :-
Most cases of croup can be safely managed at home, but call your health care provider for guidance, even in the middle of the night.

Cool or moist air might bring relief. You might first try bringing the child into a steamy bathroom or outside into the cool night air. If you have a cool air vaporizer, set it up in the child’s bedroom and use it for the next few nights.

Acetaminophen can make the child more comfortable and lower a fever, lessening his or her breathing needs. Avoid cough medicines unless you discuss them with your doctor first.

You may want your child to be seen. Steroid medicines can be very effective at promptly relieving the symptoms of croup. Medicated aerosol treatments, if necessary, are also powerful.

Serious illness requires hospitalization. Increasing or persistent breathing difficulty, fatigue, bluish coloration of the skin, or dehydration indicates the need for medical attention or hospitalization.

Medications are used to help reduce upper airway swelling. This may include aerosolized racemic epinephrine, corticosteroids taken by mouth, such as dexamethasone and prednisone, and inhaled or injected forms of other corticosteroids. Oxygen and humidity may be provided in an oxygen tent placed over a crib. A bacterial infection requires antibiotic therapy.

Increasing obstruction of the airway requires intubation (placing a tube through the nose or mouth through the larynx into the main air passage to the lungs). Intravenous fluids are given for dehydration. In some cases, corticosteroids are prescribed.

Alternative Treatments :-
Since most croup cases are mild in severity, over the counter treatments are often used. These treatments include ointments such as Vick’s or other menthol creams. These often are used to open up the airways. Other over the counter treatments include humidifiers to keep the humidity up in a room and lessen the chances of the airways becoming further inflamed or irritated.

Other methods of breaking croup attacks include hot shower exposure and cold air exposure. In the hot shower method, the shower is used as a sauna, in that the shower is running but people sit outside of it, taking in the warm, humid air. This method can be very effective when used in ten minute increments. Cuddling or reading to the child can limit the stress that is on the child during such a treatment. Cold or cool air exposure is another very effective alternative treatment. This method of treatment relies on the idea that the inflamed tissues will cool and shrink when exposed to cool air. Since most croup cases occur during the fall or winter seasons, this is often achieved simply by going outside or driving with the windows rolled down.

Lifestyle and home remedies:
Croup often runs its course within three to seven days. In the meantime, keep your child comfortable with a few simple measures.

*Stay calm. Comfort or distract your child — cuddle, read a book or play a quiet game. Crying makes breathing more difficult.

*Moisten the air. Use a cool-air humidifier in your child’s bedroom or have your child breathe the warm, moist air in a steamy bathroom. Although researchers have questioned the benefits of humidity as part of emergency treatment for croup, moist air seems to help children breathe easier — especially when croup is mild.

*Get cool. Sometimes breathing fresh, cool air helps. If it’s cool outdoors, wrap your child in a blanket and walk outside for a few minutes.

*Hold your child in an upright position. Sitting upright can make breathing easier. Hold your child on your lap, or place your child in a favorite chair or infant seat.

*Offer fluids. For babies, water, breast milk or formula is fine. For older children, soup or frozen fruit pops may be soothing.

*Encourage resting. Sleep can help your child fight the infection.

*Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. If your child has a fever, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help. Cough syrup, which doesn’t affect the larynx or trachea, isn’t likely to relieve your child’s cough. Over-the-counter cold preparations are not recommended for children younger than age 5.

Your child’s cough may improve during the day, but don’t be surprised if it returns at night. You may want to sleep near your child or even in the same room so that you can take quick action if your child’s symptoms become severe.

Prognosis:
Viral croup is usually a self-limited disease, but can very rarely result in death from respiratory failure and/or cardiac arrest. Symptoms usually improve within two days, but may last for up to seven days. Other uncommon complications include bacterial tracheitis, pneumonia, and pulmonary edema

Prevention:
To prevent croup, take the same steps you use to prevent colds and flu. Frequent hand washing is most important. Also keep your child away from anyone who’s sick, and encourage your child to cough or sneeze into his or her elbow.

To stave off more-serious infections, keep your child’s immunizations current. The diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and measles vaccines offer protection from some of the rarest — but most dangerous — forms of upper airway infection.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/croup2.shtml
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/croup/DS00312
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croup
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003215.htm

http://modernmedicalguide.com/croup-acute-spasmodic-laryngitis/

http://savingmommymoney.com/croup-symptoms-and-cure

http://www.methodsofhealing.com/Healing_Conditions/croup/

http://www.sciencephoto.com/images/download_lo_res.html?id=770500647

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News on Health & Science

‘Brushing Teeth Prevents Preterm Birth’

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Preterm births are easier prevented than thought. Researchers in the United States have found that brushing your teeth properly and maintaining  proper oral hygiene reduces the chance of early labour by a large extent.

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Researchers from Case Western Reserve and Yale Universities Previously undiscovered bacteria usually found in the mouth could be responsible for up to 80% of early preterm labours.

The research could help doctors prevent preterm births by encouraging oral hygiene or stop early labour from developing by prescribing targeted antibiotics, Discovery News reported on its website on Wednesday.

“The earlier the woman goes into preterm labor, the higher the chance that she will be infected,” said Yiping Han, a doctor at Case Western University and the first author on the study.

Most human pregnancies last about 40 weeks. A birth prior to 37 weeks is classified as preterm. Babies born preterm can face many hurdles: vision and hearing loss, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, even death.

Labour itself is still somewhat of a mystery to science, which makes puzzling out preterm labour even more difficult. Anything from socioeconomic status and race to bacterial infection and genetics have been linked to preterm births, but a definitive cause is still elusive.

Han and her colleagues think they have found a major cause, at least in mice. By infecting the rodents with Bergeyella, a previously unknown bacteria found in the mice, the researchers caused preterm births.

In humans, the scientists showed a strong correlation between infection and preterm births. Doctors removed amniotic fluid from 46 different women with potentially higher risk pregnancies. Of that group, 21 delivered an early preterm baby (32 weeks or earlier). Nineteen of those women, or about 85%, were positive for previously undetected bacteria.

The bacteria normally live in the mouth, but if a cut, cavity or other wound allows the bacteria to enter the blood stream, they can travel and eventually colonize the uterus. That triggers an immune response, which can inflame the uterus and eventually cause a mother to go into labour prematurely.

To identify bacteria behind preterm labour, doctors used polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Using PCR, the scientists identified the Bergeyella bacterium, as well as DNA belonging to 10 or 11 different strains of newly identified bacteria. Now that doctors know about another link to preterm labour, the next step is to treat it. Antibiotics that specifically target these new bacteria are currently being tested.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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The Promise and Power of RNA

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People whose bodies make an unusually active form of a certain protein tend to have dangerously high levels of cholesterol. Those with an inactive form of the protein have low cholesterol and a low risk of heart attacks.

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Needless to say, pharmaceutical companies would love to find a drug that can attach itself to the protein and block its activity. That might be difficult for this protein, which is called PCSK9. But a powerful new approach, called RNA interference, may surmount that obstacle. Instead of mopping up a protein after it has been produced, as a conventional drug would do, RNA interference turns off the faucet, halting production of a protein by silencing the gene that contains its recipe.

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In monkeys, a single injection of a drug to induce RNA interference against PCSK9 lowered levels of bad cholesterol by about 60%, an effect that lasted up to three weeks. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, the biotechnology company that developed the drug, hopes to begin testing it in people next year.

The drug is a practical application of scientific discoveries that are showing that RNA, once considered a mere messenger boy for DNA, actually helps to run the show. The classic, protein-making genes are still there on the double helix, but RNA seems to play a powerful role in how genes function.

“This is potentially the biggest change in our understanding of biology since the discovery of the double helix,” said John Mattick, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Queensland in Australia. And the practical impact may be enormous.

RNA interference, or RNAi, discovered only about 10 years ago, is attracting huge interest for its seeming ability to knock out disease-causing genes. There are already at least six RNAi drugs being tested in people, for illnesses including cancer and an eye disease. And while there are still huge challenges to surmount, that number could easily double in the coming year.

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Sources: The Times Of India

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