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Annu Rev Chem Biomol Eng. 2011;2:77-96. doi: 10.1146/annurev-chembioeng-061010-114133.

Silencing or stimulation? siRNA delivery and the immune system.

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The David H. Koch Institute for Integrated Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Since its inception more than a decade ago, the field of short interfering RNA (siRNA) therapeutics has demonstrated potential in the treatment of a wide variety of diseases. The power behind RNA interference (RNAi) therapy lies in its ability to specifically silence target genes of interest. As more biological data have become available, it has become evident that, in addition to mediating RNAi, siRNA molecules have the potential to potently induce the innate immune system. One of the significant challenges facing the field today is the differentiation between therapeutic effects caused by target-specific, RNAi-mediated gene silencing and those caused by nonspecific stimulation of the innate immune system. Unless appropriate experimental measures are taken to control for RNA-induced immunostimulation, genetic manipulation can be confused with immune activation. This review attempts to provide an accessible background in siRNA-relevant immunology and to highlight the ways in which siRNA can be engineered to avoid or provoke an innate immune response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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