microRNA and RNA Interference
One of many interesting findings of the Human Genome Project is that the number of protein coding genes for humans is not all that large- pretty much the same number found in a worm. That finding started to make more sense when researchers discovered that a lot of DNA is transcribed into RNA but never into proteins.
These noncoding RNAs, called microRNAs (miRNAs) because of their small size, interfere with protein expression by binding to complementary mRNA sequences and preventing their translation into proteins or accelerating their breakdown. In addition, miRNAs can affect post-transcriptional control.
They play critical roles in many cellular processes, including cell growth & proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis and can influence, quite significantly, the fate and function of cells. To date, more than 5,000 miRNAs have been identified and many more likely remain unidentified. A single miRNA molecule can affect several genes, which implies that these molecules can affect entire biological pathways and alter a biological state.
Researchers, therefore, are studying miRNAs at a furious pace. Many are focused on understanding the basic biology of miRNAs as well as their role in normal biological development, including any role they might have in stem cells.
In the late 1990s, researchers discovered that certain miRNAs interfere with protein expression to such a degree that they actually silence it altogether. This mechanism, called RNA silencing or RNA interference (RNAi), holds promise for the diagnosis and treatment of disease conditions, and a large number of researchers are studying miRNAs in the context of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neural disorders.
Molecular Devices provides a full line of microarray analysis and imaging products to support analyses of miRNAs. We provide live cell capabilities and label-free analytical systems as well. Please use the links below to learn more.
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