TOOLS: Nucleic Acid Origami

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Science  09 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5621, pp. 873
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5621.873d

To combat illnesses ranging from cancer to AIDS, scientists hope to turn RNA against itself. They envision using enzymes to chop up the RNA genome of the AIDS virus, for example, and dispatching small RNAs to block the RNA messages that keep cancer cells dividing. But to target an RNA's vulnerable spots, researchers need to know how the string of nucleic acids folds. Sfold, a set of tools from the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health, predicts the likely folding patterns of a particular RNA sequence and helps researchers design RNA snippets that could chop or obstruct it. For example, one tool devises short-interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which shut off a gene by sticking to its messenger RNA molecules. Another of the site's tools pinpoints locations in an RNA molecule—such as the genome of the AIDS virus—that can be snipped by RNA enzymes.

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