RNAi for Crop Improvement
RNA interference (RNAi) is a method of blocking gene function by inserting short sequences of ribonucleic acid (RNA) that match part of the target gene’s sequence, thus no proteins are produced. Since Science named it as “Breakthrough of the Year” and Fortune magazine hailed it as “Biotech’s Billion Dollar Breakthrough” in 2003, RNAi has significantly gained prominence as the method of choice for researchers sleuthing the structure and function of important genes.
RNAi has the potential to become a powerful therapeutic approach toward targeted and personalized medicine. The range of diseases and disorders it might address is unprecedented; from cancer to cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders and even HIV. Even more exciting is the potential of RNAi in agriculture. RNAi has provided a way to control pests and diseases, introduce novel plant traits and increase crop yield. Using RNAi, scientists have developed novel crops such as nicotine-free tobacco, non-allergenic peanuts, decaffeinated coffee, and nutrient fortified maize among many others.