PerspectiveCell Biology

The Case for RNA

Science  26 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6008, pp. 1185-1186
DOI: 10.1126/science.1199495

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A major challenge in cell-based biotechnology is to engineer gene regulatory systems that can detect signals defined by users and then effect desired changes in the expression of targeted genes. On page 1251 of this issue, Culler et al. (1) take an innovative step toward meeting this challenge. They describe the use of short segments of RNA to create programmable “control devices” that, when triggered by the presence of certain proteins, rewire gene expression pathways and change the behavior of human cells. The work highlights the promise of RNA as a molecular platform for engineering predictable and customized gene regulation systems and potentially using such synthetic systems to treat disease.