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Research Technology / RNA Interference


MicroRNAs Regulate Immune System Via Multiple Targets

Abstract: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent the most abundant class of regulators of gene expression. Each miRNA may suppress multiple mRNA targets, while one mRNA can be targeted by many miRNAs for precise control of a wide range of cellular processes. The important role of miRNAs in the immune system is highlighted by the conditional Dicer knockout mouse, which exhibited profound aberrant development and function of immune cells. One particular miRNA, miR-155, is highly expressed and plays important role in lymphocytes. In this review we focused on the role of miRNA, especially miR-155, via their predicted and known mRNA targets in innate and adaptive immunity. Finally, we discussed the potential of miRNAs as novel targets for the diagnosis and therapy of immune system diseases. ... Read more

State-Of-The-Art Human Gene Therapy: Part II. Gene Therapy Strategies and Clinical Applications

Abstract: In Part I of this Review (Wang and Gao, 2014), we introduced recent advances in gene delivery technologies and explained how they have powered some of the current human gene therapy applications. In Part II, we expand the discussion on gene therapy applications, focusing on some of the most exciting clinical uses. To help readers to grasp the essence and to better organize the diverse applications, we categorize them under four gene therapy strategies: (1) gene replacement therapy for monogenic diseases, (2) gene addition for complex disorders and infectious diseases, (3) gene expression alteration targeting RNA, and (4) gene editing to introduce targeted changes in host genome. Human gene therapy started with the simple idea that replacing a faulty gene with a functional copy can cure a disease. It has been a long and bumpy road to finally translate this seemingly straightforward concept into reality. As many disease mechanisms unraveled, gene therapists have employed a gene addition strategy backed by a deep knowledge of what goes wrong in diseases and how to harness host cellular machinery to battle against diseases. Breakthroughs in other biotechnologies, such as RNA interference and genome editing by chimeric nucleases, have the potential to be integrated into gene therapy. Although clinical trials utilizing these new technologies are currently sparse, these innovations are expected to greatly broaden the scope of gene therapy in the near future. ... Read more

Current siRNA Targets in the Prevention and Treatment of Intimal Hyperplasia

Abstract: Intimal hyperplasia (IH) is the leading cause of late vein and prosthetic bypass graft failure. Injury at the time of graft implantation leading to the activation of endothelial cells and dedifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells to a synthetic phenotype are known causes of IH. Prior attempts to develop therapy to mitigate these cellular changes to prevent IH and graft failure have failed. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) mediated targeted gene silencing is a promising tool to prevent IH. Several studies have been performed in this direction to target genes that are involved in IH. In this review we discuss siRNA targets that are being investigated for prevention and treatment of IH. ... Read more

Interplay Between microRNAs, Toll-like Receptors, and HIV-1: Potential Implications in HIV-1 Replication and Chronic Immune Activation

Abstract: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important cellular, small non-coding RNAs that regulate host gene expression and have well-characterized roles in inflammation and infectious diseases. It has become apparent as well that cellular miRNAs can play crucial roles in controlling HIV-1 infection and replication. Whether HIV-1 encodes and is able to express viral miRNAs in infected cells remains controversial. HIV-1 can manipulate the biogenesis of miRNAs as well as the expression profiles of cellular miRNAs. Toll-Like receptors (TLRs) are important pathogen recognition receptors that sense invading pathogens orchestrating innate and adaptive immune responses. Innate immune recognition of HIV-1 infection leads to activation of TLR7/8. Recent evidence has shown that certain miRNAs can also be recognized by TLR7/8 leading to immune activation. However, the potential TLR7/8-mediated recognition of HIV-1 encoded miRNAs and/or cellular miRNAs modulated in HIV-1 infected cells has not been experimentally explored. In this review, we summarize the current literature on HIV-1 infection and miRNAs. Furthermore, we underscore the need for future research on potential miRNA-induced activation of TLR7/8, which might contribute to the chronic immune activation observed in HIV-1 infected patients. ... Read more

Current siRNA Targets in Atherosclerosis and Aortic Aneurysm

Abstract: Atherosclerosis (ATH) and aortic aneurysms (AA) remain challenging chronic diseases that confer high morbidity and mortality despite advances in medical, interventional, and surgical care. RNA interference represents a promising technology that may be utilized to silence genes contributing to ATH and AA. Despite positive results in preclinical and some clinical feasibility studies, challenges such as target/sequence validation, tissue specificity, transfection efficiency, and mitigation of unwanted off-target effects remain to be addressed. In this review the most current targets and some novel approaches in siRNA delivery are being discussed. Due to the plethora of investigated targets, only studies published between 2010 and 2014 were included. ... Read more

Effects of AFP Gene Silencing on Apoptosis and Proliferation of a Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cell Line

Abstract: Alpha fetoprotein (AFP) is an oncoembryonal protein that is highly expressed in the majority of hepatocellular carcinomas. Previous studies have shown that AFP may be involved in multiple cell growth regulating, differentiating, and immunosuppressive activities. We investigated the effects of AFP gene silencing by siRNA on apoptosis and proliferation of hepatocellular carcinoma cell line EGHC-9901, which highly expresses AFP and may serve as an ideal model for investigation of AFP functions. siRNA expressing plasmid targeting the AFP gene was first established and subsequently transfected into hepatocellular carcinoma cell line EGHC-9901; cells were then divided into three groups: siRNA-afp, transfected with AFP-siRNA; siRNA-beta-actin, transfected with siRNA-beta-actin as the positive group; and vector control, transfected with empty vector as the blank control group. After G418 positive clone selection for a couple of weeks, Western blot and RT (reverse transcription)-PCR assay demonstrated that AFP expression was almost completely inhibited by siRNA-afp, which indicates that siRNA expressing plasmid targeting the AFP gene has been successfully established. Furthermore, MTT (methyl thiazolyl tetrazelium) assay showed that cells transfected with siRNA-afp proliferated at a significantly lower speed than the other two groups and flat plate clone formation assay also witnessed less clones with diameters of more than 75 μm in siRNA-afp immunofluorescence indicating that the apoptosis rate of cells transfected with siRNA-afp was significantly higher than the other two groups. Furthermore, flow cytometry manifested approximately 20% more cells of siRNA-afp within G1 phase than those of the negative group, indicating that inhibition of AFP expression may cause G1 phase arrest. Finally, Western blot and RT-PCR assay demonstrated that siRNA-afp induced a higher expression of caspase-3 than the other two groups whereas there was no difference in expression of caspase-8, caspase-9, and Bcl-2 between the three groups. ... Read more

Optimizing siRNA Delivery to the Genital Mucosa

Abstract: RNA interference (RNAi) describes a highly conserved pathway, present in eukaryotic cells, for regulating gene expression. Small stretches of double-stranded RNA, termed small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), utilize this pathway to bind homologous mRNA, resulting in site-specific mRNA cleavage and subsequent protein degradation. The ubiquitous presence of the RNAi machinery, combined with its specificity and efficacy, makes it an attractive mechanism for reducing aberrant gene expression in therapeutic settings. However, a major obstacle to utilizing RNAi in the clinic is siRNA delivery. Administered siRNAs must make contact with the appropriate cell types and, following internalization, gain access to the cytosol where the RNAi machinery resides. This must be achieved so that silencing is maximized, whilst minimizing any undesirable off-target effects. Recently, the utility of siRNAs as a microbicide, usually applied to the genital mucosa for preventing transmission of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV-1 and HSV-2, has been investigated. In this review we will describe these studies and discuss potential strategies for improving gene silencing. ... Read more

Gene Therapy for Vision Loss -- Recent Developments

Abstract: Retinal gene therapy mediated by adeno-associated virus (AAV) based gene transfer was recently proven to improve photoreceptor function in one form of inherited retinal blinding disorder associated with mutations in the RPE65 gene. Several clinical trials are currently ongoing, and more than 30 patients have been treated to date. Even though only a very limited number of patients will greatly benefit from this still experimental treatment protocol, the technique itself has been shown to be safe and will likely be used in other retinal disorders in the near future. A canine model for achromatopsia has been treated successfully as well as mouse models for different forms of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). For patients with autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP), a combined gene knockdown and gene addition therapy is being developed using RNA interference to block mRNA of the mutant allele. For those patients suffering from RP with unknown mutations, an AAV based transfer of bacterial forms of rhodopsin in the central retina might be an option to reactivate residual cones in the future. ... Read more

The Therapeutic Potential of microRNA Modulation

Abstract: microRNAs are endogenous small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by interfering with translation or stability of target transcripts. The importance and varied functions of microRNAs are illustrated by the diverse phenotypes, including disease, that arise when microRNAs are mutated or improperly expressed. The association of microRNA dysfunction with disease phenotypes has given rise to the idea that selective modulation of microRNAs could alter the course of disease. With the recent demonstration that inhibition of miR-122 reduces viral load in HCV-infected chimpanzees, microRNA modulators are no longer merely theoretical, but have become strong candidate therapeutics. Here we review the evidence for microRNA dysfunction in human disease, as well as recent examples of microRNA modulation that provided therapeutic benefit. ... Read more

HIV-1 Latency and Eradication of Long-term Viral Reservoirs

Abstract: HIV-1 infection is characterized by a continuous viral replication throughout the illness that can be controlled to some extent by effective treatment. Early during primary infection, latent reservoirs where the virus remains hidden in metabolically inert cells are established. These reservoirs are responsible for a low-rate viral replication that can be observed even during effective treatment and are a major obstacle for the complete eradication of the infection. This low-rate viral replication also comes from anatomical sites where drug penetration is limited and only a suboptimal drug concentration can be achieved. Further understanding of the mechanisms underlying HIV-1 latency is of primary importance to develop new strategies that ensure the complete destruction of reservoirs and, therefore, the eradication of the infection. ... Read more

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