7.344 RNA Interference: A New Tool for Genetic Analysis and Therapeutics

Fall 2004

Photomicrograph of RNAi in mouse neuroepithelium.
Specificity of esiRNA-mediated RNAi in the neuroepithelium of postimplantation mouse embryos developing in whole-embryo culture. (Figure 2 of Calegari, F., et al. "Tissue-specific RNA interference in postimplantation mouse embryos with endoribonuclease-prepared short interfering RNA." PNAS: vol. 99, no. 22, 14236–14240, October 29, 2002. Copyright 2002 National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Used with permission.)

Course Highlights

This course features a full bibliography in the readings section.

Course Description

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting.

To understand and treat any disease with a genetic basis or predisposition, scientists and clinicians need effective ways of manipulating the levels of genes and gene products. Conventional methods for the genetic modification of many experimental organisms are technically demanding and time consuming. Just over 5 years ago, a new mechanism of gene-silencing, termed RNA interference (RNAi), was discovered. In addition to being a fascinating biological process, RNAi provides a revolutionary technology that has already changed the way biomedical research is done and that may even prove useful for genetic interventions in a clinical context. In this course, students learn how RNAi was discovered, how it works, and what its physiological relevance might be. How RNAi can be harnessed to modulate gene expression and perform genetic screens, both in cells and in various organisms is also covered. Finally, this course examines the first attempts to use RNAi for the treatment of models of human diseases in experimental animals.

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Dr. Stephan Kissler
Dr. Andrea Ventura

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
2 hours / session