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Short snippets of RNA — the molecule that encodes information needed to synthesise proteins — may one day be used to combat infection with hepatitis C virus, which causes acute hepatitis and chronic liver disease in 170 million people worldwide, researchers say.

Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are employed naturally by the body to patrol cells and turn off potentially harmful genes.

Anton P. McCaffrey from Stanford University in California, and colleagues report in this week's issue of Nature that they have exploited this by expressing designer RNAs in laboratory mice: these can bind to hepatitis C virus RNA and prevent virus replication.

Reference: Nature 418, 38 (2002)

Link to paper in Nature by Anton P. McCaffrey et al

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