Emory Report
August 4, 2008
Volume 60, Number 36



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August 4, 2008
Antibiotics can enhance gene-silencing tool

By Quinn Eastman

Emory researchers have discovered a way to make a medically promising gene-silencing technique work better. The surprise: an added boost of efficiency can come from a widely used family of antibiotics.

A way to turn off one gene at a time called RNA interference has earned acceptance in biology laboratories over the last decade. The technique emerged from the Nobel Prize-winning discovery that short pieces of RNA, when introduced into cells, can silence a stretch of genetic code.

Doctors envision RNA interference as a tool to treat a variety of diseases if it can be adapted to humans.

Geneticist Peng Jin’s laboratory found that antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones can make RNA interference more effective in the laboratory and reduce potential side effects. The results are scheduled for publication in the August issue of Nature Biotechnology.

Significant barriers such as specificity and toxicity prevent RNA interference from working well in people, and his group’s discovery could help to overcome those barriers, Jin said.

“The good part is that doctors have years of experience treating bacterial infections with fluoroquinolones, so they are generally considered safe,” he said. The group of compounds includes the widely used antibiotic ciprofloxacin.