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Better (And Longer) Living

...through RNA interference:

In monkeys, a single injection of a drug to induce RNA interference against PCSK9 lowered levels of bad cholesterol by about 60 percent, 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 S. Mattick, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Of course, as the article points out, there's still a lot we don't know, and there are likely to be unforeseen side effects until we understand how this all works much better. But this is a breakthrough in itself.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here's an interesting article on how far genetics has come in the ninety-nine years since the word "gene" was coined.

[via Derbyshire, who has other thoughts]


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ken anthony wrote:

The first article reminded me of the plot of 'I am legend.' It was the second article I found most fascinating.

There's a Japanese geneticist that believes you can turn genes on and off by your emotions. This seems far fetched, but he's written a small little book that I happened to see at the downtown library that seems to make the case.

I've always felt that ignoring more than 98% of DNA was a mistake. This last article points out that 93% of the RNA produced isn't used in the traditionally understood way. Absolutely fascinating.

Most curious was how natural selection doesn't appear to work as predicted on the dismissed DNA. I look forward to finding out more about that in the coming years.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on November 11, 2008 9:56 AM.

When The Military Gets It Right was the previous entry in this blog.

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